Disney’s Christopher Robin director & cast on the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh
Inspired by the stories of A.A. Milne and the Winnie the Pooh animated films and shows based on them, the latest Disney live-action adaptation reunites a now grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) with his childhood friends. Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh are all there as if no time has flown by in the Hundred Acre Wood. For Christopher Robin, he’s been gone for too long and has placed work above fun more than anything. When his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) want to go on Holiday, Robin ends up taking on more work and making his family go to the country house without him. Putting a strain on his relationship and being forced by his boss to make budget cuts, Christopher has a breakdown. Lucky for him, Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) has found his way to London at the moment he’s needed the most.
At the press day for the film, ComingSoon.net sat down with the film’s stars Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell and director Marc Forster to chat about what makes Winnie the Pooh so timeless, expanding the legacy with Richard Sherman of the Sherman Bros. and growing up but never letting go of your inner child.
Actress Hayley Atwell reminisced about the lasting presence of Winnie the Pooh in her childhood, “Its quintessentially English, this idealism of the world of the Hundred-Acre wood and these little animals.” she said of the characters created by Milne that Disney later carried the legacy of. “There’s an innocence that we all relate to because it’s childhood innocence of spending long summer days with your best friends just hanging out not doing anything. The appeal is always that sense of gentleness and safety in that world of friendship when you’re a child. When you don’t have that burden of responsibility when big things happen to you where you can create your reality very much in your imagination and back garden.”
While working on the film, director Marc Forster reached out to the surviving member of the Sherman Bros. who created so many of the Disney classics for the original film. He discussed what it was like to pitch the idea to a living legend, “If I could get one song out of Richard Sherman, it’d be such a blessing for the movie. So I call him up and send him the script. I said ‘…at the beginning when they say goodbye, they can sing a little song for him before Eeyore does a little poem.’ So he calls me up and tells me he’s going to play the song for me. I have it on speaker, I’m in the car driving back from the set. He’s in his house playing from his piano and singing for me into his phone. First I get goosebumps, then I start crying. At the end, he plays a second song, and then a third song and a fourth. I’m literally in tears in the car and I said, ‘Richard, this is beautiful. Wait, wait I didn’t record this can you please sing it again’. I had to record it, its the most beautiful heartbreaking thing, him on the piano.”
While McGregor and Atwell don’t get to sing in the film, “We got a dance, which was nice.” laughed McGregor. Atwell interjected, “We sang a lot in the car.”
McGregor continued, “We were not unmusical just not on screen.”
Atwell did share what classic Winnie the Pooh song she would have loved to share with the animated characters, “There’s a song that’s not in this one but it’s on other cassette tape versions. Where he’s trying to get honey from a nest and he’s going how sweet to be a cloud floating in the blue and he’s trying to sing a song pretending to be a cloud then they won’t think I’m a bear looking for honey. And it was a cute little ditty.” she said of Little Black Raincloud as McGregor hummed along.
On Growing Up But Never Forgetting Your Inner Child
For Ewan McGregor, having only had a version of the character who was a young boy, tapping into an adult version wasn’t challenging as he based his performance on his experience as a working father and what that could be like at the time Robin would be a dad himself. He explained, “I think there’s an interesting thing as a dad about Christopher Robin being a man at that time. It would be unusual for him or any father to sense that he wasn’t close enough to his children but he’s not close enough to his daughter and he feels that–which is what’s so beautiful about the film because by the end of it he’s done something about it. And he’s closer to her. Pooh helps him to find the child in him again, who he was in the beginning when we see him at the beginning of the movie and then life happens to him and he’s lost that and Pooh helps him back to that. I suppose it was quite hard in some of the early scenes with Haley and Bronte, it was hard to pull back and make Christopher uptight and not notice that he is. At that point, he doesn’t know that. I love that the scenes, in the beginning, set that up. You can see they love each other, it’s important that we understand that otherwise, we don’t root for them.”
Atwell agreed, “Early you see them dancing, having this connection together then you know what is at stake for him if he loses it and you think what a missed opportunity to have this wonderful life with this woman who loves him and this beautiful daughter that wants to just be with him.”
Forster loved being able to use the known mythology of the tales to mean something more as Robin got older, “When he enters the hundred acre woods it’s again very foggy, he can’t find his way until he comes out of the Heffalump pit and the sun comes out and the colors become more lush. After beating the Heffalump out of himself, the Heffalump battle he sort of finds himself fighting his own demons and coming out on the other side with the realization of who he is and what he’s become.”
To him the film is inspired by many of the Pooh-isms that many could use nowadays, Forster noted some of his favorites, “Some people care too much and I think it’s called love.” he smiled and added, “Then there’s the one: Do you ever stop to think and forget to start again?”
Christopher Robin opens this Friday!