Disney's Christopher Robin director Marc Forster has revealed the logic behind Winnie the Pooh's "vintage" look in the upcoming live-action film. The Christopher Robin teaser trailer dropped online this week, conjuring feelings of both confusion and nostalgia for those who grew up loving the Bear of Very Little Brain. Winnie the Pooh's appearance as a photo-realistic toy in the movie took a number of people off-guard, as evidenced by the reactions to the teaser trailer that have been posted to social media.
The premise for Christopher Robin begs comparison to that for Steven Spielberg's Hook, in that both are about famous literary characters who have grown up and started a family. Whereas Hook paints the adult Peter Pan as being a man who has lost sight of what really matters, Christopher Robin appears to be more sympathetic to its namesake. Case in point, the teaser trailer shows Christopher (Ewan McGregor) wanting to take his wife and daughter on a weekend trip, but having to cancel when his boss (Mark Gatiss) demands that he find a way to cut their business operating costs - and not so subtly threatens Christopher's sense of job security.
Speaking to ET, Forster described Christopher Robin as being a "very emotional movie", adding that “There’s no better time to get a big hug by Pooh.” He further confirmed that the illustrations by E.H. Sherpard from A.A. Milne's original Winnie the Pooh stories were a big influence on the look of Winnie the Pooh and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood in the film. More than that, Forster said he wanted their appearance to reflect how much time has passed since Christopher played them with as a young boy:
“It was an enduring process to develop Pooh the way I liked him. They’re not brand new toys we bought off a shelf, they had some love in them, some wear and tear. Christopher Robin played with them a lot as toys, and when you see them, they should look a little vintage.”
Winnie the Pooh's "wear and tear" is further reflected in the voice of Jim Cummings, who has been lending his vocals to the honey-loving bear since 1988. The prolific Disney voice actor has been associated with the character for so long that now multiple generations have grown up hearing him voice Winnie in various animated forms. For related reasons, Forster felt that Cummings was essential to bringing the character to life the way he wanted in the Christopher Robin movie:
“He lived this character for over 30 years, so for him, this is, sort of, part of his being at this point. It was important to me [to have] this nostalgic element of the voice and the feel. It was very important.”
Christopher Robin is but the latest live-action Disney fairy tale re-imagining with a strong nostalgic element to hit theaters over the last several years, with many more to come still. At the same time, the movie feels different in the way that nostalgia is baked into the text of the story - itself one that audiences have never heard before, unlike most of the Mouse House's other live-action retellings. Winnie the Pooh's appearance as a realistic CGI plaything might take some getting used to for some filmgoers, but it sounds as though his antiquated look and manner are essential to what Christopher Robin is going for storytelling-wise.