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The Criterion Collection is renowned for the quality of its releases, restoration work, and for highlighting art-house classics from the past. However I'm curious to know why it also releases films made in the last decade or so and as a corollary, what benefits new films derive from a Criterion release.

Upcoming releases include titles such as Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and the controversial Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013). Criterion recently released Frances Ha (2013). While two of these examples are perhaps niche in terms of audience, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a mainstream movie which has already seen a well received Blu-ray release.

So, why would Criterion want to release a movie like Fantastic Mr. Fox to its collection? Why would 20th Century Fox want Criterion to release Fantastic Mr. Fox even though it has a BR release of its own? Is it simply a matter of prestige and a badge of honour, or perhaps about catering to a different audience?

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The people who pick which films to release on Criterion already seem like fans of the director, Wes Anderson, having released all of his previous features (except his newest, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel which has not been released theatrically yet). Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited are all Criterion releases. It therefore does not seem out of place to include The Fantastic Mr. Fox, nor would it be surprising to see his newer works incorporated into the Criterion Collection. There is an established history between the director and the company.

See also:

1. What is the Criterion Collection?

The Criterion Collection is a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films on home video. Our editions often feature restored film transfers, commentary tracks, and other supplemental features that the company pioneered when it released its first laserdiscs, Citizen Kane and King Kong, at the end of 1984. Ever since, Criterion has been working closely with filmmakers and scholars to ensure that each film is presented as its maker would want it seen and published in an edition that will deepen the viewer’s understanding and appreciation of the art of cinema.

2. How does Criterion decide which films receive the “Criterion treatment”?

We aim to reflect the breadth of filmed expression. We try not to be restrictive or snobby about what kinds of films are appropriate. An auteur classic, a Hollywood blockbuster or an independent B horror film has to be taken on its own terms. All we ask is that each film in the collection be an exemplary film of its kind. Of course we can’t just pick movies and put them out. The process of getting the rights to release a film can take years. Even if we want a film, we can’t work on it unless the film’s owners grant us the rights.

3. How does Criterion decide which special features to include? And who contributes to them?

Each film release has a producer who oversees the entire process, from restoration to supplemental features to packaging. The producer researches available materials, conceives of original supplements, and decides which features truly add value to the appreciation of the film. We are fortunate to work with many great film directors, cinematographers, actors, scholars, and critics. We do not let market factors or an arbitrary quantity of supplements determine our decision for inclusion; rather it is on a case-by-case basis, serving the purpose of enhancing the viewer’s experience of that particular film.

When Criterion releases a DVD or Bluray they do a new transfer (usually overseen by the director and/or cinematographer), offer new features (often a commentary track), and it's meant as a release for longevity; providing cinephiles and enthusiasts the best possible copy available. Studios can license a limited release (x amount of copies, or x amount of time) with rights reverting back to them afterwards. They make money from the first wave and then from letting someone else do the heavy lifting. In order to meet the best sell-through release date, the initial studio release may be light on features due to not having access to actors or filmmakers (who may have commitments for others movies and may be "on location") to do featurettes, interviews or commentary, which is not a concern when the company (Criterion) is able to take its time to ensure the best release they feel they can create.

Unfortunately, this licensing is one of the reasons Criterion titles go out of print. Time Bandits is a good example. Criterion only had a license that ran out in the early 2000's. Afterwards, Handmade Films sold the license to Anchor Bay who have subsequently released their own 2-disc set.

To elaborate on this specific title, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, the original release had

From Script to Screen, Still Life (Puppet Animation), A Beginner's Guide to Whack-Bat, and Theatrical Trailer

listed as the only features, while the Criterion release boasts

New digital master, approved by director Wes Anderson, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Audio commentary featuring Anderson. Storyboard animatics for the entire film. Footage of the actors voicing their characters, puppet construction, stop-motion setups, and the recording of the score. Interviews with cast and crew. Puppet animation tests. Photo gallery of puppets, props, and sets. Animated awards acceptance speeches. Audio recording of author Roald Dahl reading the book on which the film is based. Gallery of Dahl's original manuscripts. Discussion and analysis of the film. Stop-motion Sony robot commercial by Anderson. One Blu-ray and two DVDs, with all content available in both formats. PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay; a 2002 article on Dahl's Gipsy House by Anderson; White Cape, a comic book used as a prop in the film; and drawings, original paintings, and other ephemera.

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Good answer, Meat ... +1. –  Paulster2 Dec 27 '13 at 1:10
    
Thank you. But what does the Criterion release offer to viewers that the Fox release (of Fantastic Mr. Fox) does not? And importantly, why would Fox studios want to release something on Criterion? <--- heart of my question. –  coleopterist Dec 27 '13 at 5:03
    
The initial Fox release was more hurried and met to meet an initial demand. Criterion does a new transfer (usually overseen by the director and/or cinematographer), offers new features (often a commentary track), and is meant as a release for longevity; providing cinephiles and enthusiasts the best possible copy available. Fox can license a limited release (x amount of copies, or x amount of time) with rights reverting back to them afterwards. They make money from the first wave and then from letting someone else do the heavy lifting. Licensing is one reason Criterion titles go out of print. –  Meat Trademark Dec 27 '13 at 5:13
    
Please add this to your answer. What are you basing your "more hurried" conclusion on? –  coleopterist Dec 27 '13 at 5:27

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