Timeless Winnie the Pooh Still Charms
- Friday, July 15, 2011
Would you speak to the live-action opening of Winnie the Pooh that shows Christopher Robin’s bedroom? Do you think it works seamlessly with the rest of the film? And what purpose do you think it serves for the audience?
Well, you go back to what we did 35-40 years ago in the original films, and they all opened with a live-action opening as well. And so again we’re trying to build on what was done in the past, but as you see our live-action opening is vastly different than their original set. And it’s the same idea, you know. “This could be the room of any small boy, but it’s not. It happens to be the room of Christopher Robin.” They built, 35-40 years ago, they built kind of a generic little boy’s room and filled it with some stuffed toys and all that and that’s what they did. I don’t know how much research went into it, but I know for our film we all thought, “You know, we can do better than that.” And we actually had photographs of Christopher Robin’s room, the actual room, and the set that we used that was built has a more of an authentic look. Now it’s obviously been embellished for a richness for the film and you know maybe the color of the wall isn’t exactly what was in Christopher’s room. But the basic layout, the shape, the dormer window is pretty much exactly what you saw in the photos that we had of Christopher Robin’s room. So it serves in the same function; it just kind of sets the stage. And for us we end with the live-action room as part of the credits, so it kind of bookends for us. And I think for some people, it’s part of the magic. It was a real boy, he had real stuffed toys and you know this is kind of this make-believe world that he created with his friends, his friend Pooh Bear—Pooh for short—and I think that’s just part of the magic.
Talk about some of the voices that give life to the characters. Do you think they were cast well?
Well, of course, all of the original voice talent has passed on now. So Disney has used, for example, Jim Cummings has been Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s voice for I think over 20 years now. He’s kind of been the standard for that. And I think the same with Travis [Oates] who did Piglet; I think he’s been the official Piglet voice. So Disney has a very good track record in terms of finding amazing sound-alike voices for a lot of their stable characters. Again, part of our bringing this new story to a new audience is we had that flexibility, not necessarily just the sound-alike, but the voice type that matches the character. So Craig Ferguson as Owl, I think is a wonderful choice. He really embraced that. And Eeyore’s voice was Bud Luckey. And what’s interesting there, he has a very naturally low voice. He was a story artist at Pixar and has retired, but he was available and he had done several voices before for Pixar films. But what’s really neat there is he was a story artist and the original voice for Eeyore, Ralph Wright I believe was his name, he was a story artist here at the studio as well. And that was his natural voice—this very slow, deep baritone-bass voice. And so we kind of thought it was a neat, almost an homage to the fact that they used a story artist for Eeyore’s voice and we’re using a story artist for Eeyore’s voice. So I really am very pleased with the voice casting, and you know we’ve always looked for just those right, sincere, just natural voices. Our director’s son, Don [Hall], his son was the voice of Roo. And it was just very natural, very charming. You can’t beat those kind of things.
I know it’s billed as a “brand new story,” but inspired by the feel of the books. But it’s also said to have a “humor update.” For parents who may be mildly alarmed by that and think, “Oh great, does that mean potty humor?” what would you say to them?
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