“That will happen without me,” answers Marc Forster when asked if he’d consider helming the will they/won’t they sequel to Brad Pitt’s pet blockbuster project, World War Z. “I’m done with the zombies. I prefer the PG Pooh genre, it makes me laugh. I loved making WWZ but I feel that there are too many zombies in the world right now. I wanted to make Pooh because it’s about the heart and hope and joy and the things that are important in life, and there’s not enough out there.”
The idea to make a film about Winnie The Pooh came to Forster from his daughter.
“We were on a plane trip together to go on a vacation and she was 6 and watching the Winnie The Pooh cartoon on her iPad and she turned to me and said, ‘can you finally make a movie for me? I can’t watch any of your movies.’ And I said, ‘why don’t I make this one?’ and pointed at the iPad. And she said ‘yeah, why don’t you make Pooh’. And three years later we are here…”
And luckily the House of Mouse was happy to oblige, with their live action revamps of animated classics currently working box office wonders. “I looked into what Disney were doing with the IP, and sometimes stars just align,” says Forster. “For me it was looking at an origin story and introducing Pooh to a whole new generation who isn’t familiar with Pooh.
“Disney has been a great partner,” he continues. “When I presented them the look they had no notes in regard to the characters. When I came in at the beginning, I told them that I wanted to go back to the [Ernest] Shepard drawings from the 1920s and to also have a look at the first black and white drawings from the Disney cartoon character. Then have Michael Kutsche, who did the character design, come in and look at them, we went back and forth, and there was Pooh and I loved him. It was very close to the one that ended up in the movie, and I presented it to the studio and everyone loved him. The key was that it has to feel like it was a vintage Pooh, that you feel that wear and tear, that this boy hugged and played with this bear. The bear was created in the 1920s and the film takes place in the late 1940s, so it was a thirty-year span and it felt authentic.
“The key was for me to really have these animals that feel like they’ve been used and played with and hugged. When I was a child those characters were like a warm blanket and I felt really cosy and they gave me a safety net as a kid.”
As the title suggests, Christopher Robin is about the young boy all grown up (Ewan McGregor) and living a dreary life in the city, when he’s reunited with his menagerie of imaginary friends. Does Forster believe that his origin story may be too dark for young minds?
“No. I think it’s delightful, hopeful, but there are aspects that are definitely questioning – and you could call that darker – of his own demons. It’s like every great Disney classic. I remember watching Bambi for the very first time… The reason I loved Jungle Book was when the wolf died and I was shattered. Life is ying and yang, light and dark, you have all the shades, and obviously Ewan is battling his own inner demons, and comes out the other side. It’s a very archetypical hero story in a sense. But at the same time, it has this absurdity of the world of Pooh and his friends, and they can’t really relate to that because they live in their own relative universe.”
Christopher Robin is in cinemas from September 13, 2018.