NFTS Model Makers Bring Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut To Life with a Twist In The Tail!

It's the 50th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, Fantastic Mr Fox. To celebrate, students of the NFTS Model Making Diploma brought to life an exciting and detailed display model featuring Roald Dahl’s writing hut.

Whilst the model faithfully reconstructs Dahl’s famous writing hut in miniature, it also cleverly incorporates elements from Wes Anderson’s lauded stop motion Fantastic Mr Fox film and imagines Mr Fox ‘burgling’ the hut by burrowing up through a tunnel to retrieve his tail! 

This summer, the Roald Dahl Museum plays host to a brand-new Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox exhibition, celebrating 50 years since the title’s publication with the Writing Hut created at NFTS taking centre stage!

Vistors will find out how the character of Fantastic Mr Fox has been brought to life over the years by creators such as Sir Quentin Blake, Jill Bennett and Wes Anderson, and will be able to see for themselves how many hidden objects they can spot within the Writing Hut. 

Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox opens on 26 June 2021 and runs throughout the Summer holidays. The exhibition is included in the cost of a Museum ticket which must be booked in advance. 

NFTS Model Makers placing Mr Fox into his tunnel!

Here, the Model Makers involved in the project reflect on how they brought the intricate model to life. Model Making student Jonathan Thrower explains: “We thought it would be a fun thing to play with in a 3D format and to include lots of metatextural references to Roald Dahl’s wider work whilst also keeping the model very much in the spirit of Mr Fox.”  

Head of Model Making John Lee, expands further on what this meticulously crafted project entailed. “I thought about the different ways we might best be able to celebrate this iconic anniversary, create an engaging and challenging module for my students and weave in my love of model making with the Roald Dahl book.  I’d been lucky enough to work on Wes Anderson’s animated film and our lead visiting tutor, Joe Holman, sculpted the original Mr Fox character whilst working at course partners Mackinnon and Saunders. Other visiting tutors who had also worked on the film; Josie Corben, Roy Bell, and Gary Welch came on board to help out during the build.

Lots of intricate details went into the model

My students started out the project by visiting the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden. We were given a guided tour of the archive, where we were able to view some of the original hand written manuscripts from Dahl’s book, along with scenes which never made it into the final version.

The original concept design became a collaborative process between the students, who came up with the idea of using the interior of Dahl’s writing hut as the centrepiece of the model, with The Fox character from the film burrowing up from underground and into the hut to recover his tail.

The model is a split view of Roald Dahl's writing hut and Mr Fox's tunnel underneath

Within the model, we pay homage to lots of Dahl’s other books by featuring hidden ‘easter eggs’ within the design such as the giant peach from James and The Giant Peach, Wonka chocolate bars from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and a tortoise from Esio Trot. You’ll have to watch the ‘making of’ film to see what other items we managed to include!

NFTS Model Maker working on Mr Fox's trousers!

The entire model was completed in five weeks just before the UK wide lockdown began in March. It was tough going but the NFTS Model Makers are half way through their one year diploma so by now are very organised, work well as a team and more than rose to the challenge."

Sculpting Mr Fox's head

Watch how the Model Making students created the model by watching The Writing Hut, the Tunnel and The Fox below.

After completing the Model Making Diploma in Summer 2020 and graduating from the NFTS, most of the cohort are now working in the puppet and model departments at leading animation powerhouses including Aardman Features, course partners Mackinnon and Saunders, Factory Create and Arch Film Studio to name just a few! Other alumni are currently working on large scale Marvel films within UK film studios.

If you are keen to follow in our students’ footsteps and enhance your career in the field of professional model or prop making for animation, visit the Model Making course page.

For more info on the Imagining Fantastic Mr Fox Exhibition head to the Roald Dahl Museum website.