It’s been three years since the much-heralded release of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson’s last feature film and the winner of four Academy Awards. But Thursday morning the Texan auteur and lover of all things symmetrical signaled his return to the screen with the release of a trailer for his newest offering, Isle of Dogs. The film, set to be released in March, tells the story of a fictional Japanese city, Megasaki, where a new virus called “dog flu” has begun to spread rampantly due to a severe canine overpopulation. As a solution, the city’s corrupt mayor pens an executive decree authorizing the expulsion of all infected dogs to an isolated dump across the river. Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin), the film’s protagonist, is a 12-year-old boy whose companion, Spots, has been taken to the isle. In an effort to get him back, Kobayashi sets off for the island in a prop plane. There, with the help of a pack of mongrel castoffs, he embarks on a journey that could decide the fate of the island.
Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s second foray into the world of stop-motion animation, after his 2009 adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel Fantastic Mr. Fox. As is customary with an Anderson film, the casting sheet for Isle of Dogs is star-studded. Here, the troupe includes fixtures—Bill Murray and Ed Norton—as well as a mix of new and equally notable voices: Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, and Yoko Ono. Judging from the trailer, the film appears to come fully stocked with Anderson’s cheeky humor, playful whip pans, and clever dialogue—all things that have propelled his work to critical acclaim and popular, if playfully mocking, admiration. Anderson’s filmography has been relatively globe-trotting, from the plains of Texas (Bottle Rocket) to the Mediterranean Sea (The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) to postwar Eastern Europe (The Grand Budapest Hotel). Isle of Dogs will take audiences to Japan—a country with its own rich history of animation and filmmaking. It will be interesting to see how the colorful quirks of Anderson’s cinematic universe will translate when mapped onto this world.