Friday, August 10 2018 14:00

Finding the Look of Pooh & Friends: Director Marc Forster Talks the Design of Disney's "Christopher Robin"

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With Disney's Christopher Robin (reviewed here) delighting audiences with a tale of what happened when the most famous boy of The Hundred Acre Wood grew up, I recently had the chance to catch up with Director Marc Forster to discuss the production. While the entire genesis is fascinating - largely prompted a plane ride with his daughter in which she mentioned doing a Winnie the Pooh movie, what I was most interested in was the lived-in and much-loved look of the characters.  Seeing Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Owl and Rabbit realized in "live-action" thanks to the magic of CGI aided by real-world puppetry was wondrous, but I was curious how they arrived at what we see on screen... characters that looked to be a combination of the "Classic Pooh" from the books by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard along with flourishes taken from the famous Disney animated versions...

Marc Forster Interview

"Michael Kutsche, the character designer, and I went back and forth," explained Forster. "I showed him all the Shepard early drawings and I showed him the first black and white animation drawings from Disney. Then I said, look, I love this about the Shepard ones, this about the early Disney drawings.  Let’s combine it. Soon he started drawing them and creating 3D models that we started looking at in my office where we started pre-production. We then looked at all these different materials and what they feel like, to find the right material."

Michael Kutsche Winnie the Pooh design

"And then Jenny Beavan sort of knitted the red sweater and we created that stuffed animal based on Michael's drawings. We created it, so it took us a couple months to get it right. I wanted the characters to all feel hugged and loved -- that they were not like a new sort of stuffed animals off-the-shelf. They all were made to feel that the boy played with them and there was sort of a history between them."

Michael Kutsche Piglet design

Having seen the film three times, now (in addition to having held one of the photo reference "stuffy" versions of Pooh during the World Premiere in Los Angeles), I see more little details upon each viewing. The textures and attention to detail are astounding - right down to the individual patches and spots of wear as a truly well-loved stuffed animal would display after many years of use. 

Much as Christopher Robin loved his friends, Forster feels that audiences should take away a message of love for one another.

"I think that ultimately, for me the message is that in the times we live in, I think it’s so important to have hope, joy and really... it’s about love," he says. "Pooh is about love and reconnecting with the people you love most. Everybody works so much today that to find that balance between work and the people you care for - we don’t spend enough time or attention on the people we love."

Christopher Robin is directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder and a story by Perry based on characters created by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard. The producers are Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr, with Renée Wolfe and Jeremy Johns serving as executive producers. The film stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voices of: Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger; Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Sophie Okonedo as Kanga. Get tickets now via my affiliate, Fandango.

Interview Photo Credit: Louise Bishop, MomStart. Design Photos via Michael Kutsche

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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