Marc Forster’s live-action Winnie the Pooh movie, the Ewan McGregor-starring “Christopher Robin,” isn’t hiding its biggest star. Neither is its first trailer. In our first look at the film, due out later this summer, McGregor’s eponymous character – a now-grown Christopher Robin, far removed from the joys of his animal pal-filled childhood in the Hundred Acre Wood – ably sets up one heck of a charming reveal: Winnie the Pooh, beautifully rendered to look exactly like an actual teddy bear, and still just as sweet as ever.
“We really put a lot of time into designing the bear and choosing the right material for the fur,” Forster recently told IndieWire. “We had so many samples of fur, and then the teddy bear, and then the sweater. And it’s just really to make sure I’m getting it right, because I love that bear so much.”
On set, Pooh was often played by a real teddy bear – which Forster lovingly referred to as “Stuffy” – who often stood in for the effects-crafted character. “We had a real teddy bear, so we blocked scenes often with the real teddy bear and then we had a voice actor on set that Ewan could read the lines with,” Forster explained.
The filmmaker was very impressed with McGregor, but indicated that the movie might hold another performance bolstered by the adorable ability to act alongside a slew of so-called Stuffys. (And he also hints that McGregor’s character isn’t the only Robin to enjoy the company of the furry friends.)
“You will see in later scenes, when you see the movie, Bronte Carmichael, who plays Christopher’s daughter Madeline, she does a scene where she acts with Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, and Pooh,” he said. “And it’s just her, this little girl, she’s like 11 years old, and she acts as all four characters, and basically acts through thin-air. That girl, doing that and putting emotion into it, and you suddenly feel like she’s really there with these stuffed animals. It’s extraordinary.”
The film offered Forster, who has spent the past few years making decidedly non-kid-friendly fare like “World War Z” and “Machine Gun Preacher,” the chance to get back to his early roots.
“It gave me the opportunity to revisit my own childhood, and that’s always something I wanted to do and enjoyed,” Forster said. “I’ve been, since ‘Finding Neverland,’ looking for a magical realism piece, and when I found this, I said, ‘That could be really it. Let’s try to make this work.'”
Forster was also excited by the possibility of putting out the kind of charming film the world needs right now. “I looked at the state of the world,” he said. “I just said, I need a positive film and I need a hug from a bear. That would make me feel much better.'”
What’s cuddlier than a Winnie the Pooh bear hug?
Understandably, Forster said that he hopes audiences “are delighted and feel excited and enjoy having Pooh back” when they get that first glimpse at the beloved bear in the trailer. “I hope they will embrace the film, and that they will feel that we honored Pooh and celebrated Pooh, and feel delighted and inspired by it,” he said. “Hopefully their heart is tickled by it.”
“Christopher Robin” opens on August 3.