Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit and Owl make their first appearance in a live-action film as three-dimensional characters in “Christopher Robin,” something that would not have been possible five years ago without the sophisticated computer animation technology that exists today. The beloved characters created by A.A. Milne that reside in the Hundred Acre Wood are the heart of the film, symbolizing the simple, idyllic pleasures of childhood.
Cinematographer Matthias Königswieser chose to shoot the film with traditional handheld cameras to help the stuffed animals’ motions look more believable. They would then be brought to life via photo-realistic computer animation in post-production, which would immerse these characters in mid-century London as well as in nature.
Director Marc Forster worked with character concept artist Michael Kutsche (“Ant-Man and The Wasp,” “Thor: Ragnarok”) early on in pre-production to discuss and design what he envisioned for each character, which included elements of E.H. Shepard’s watercolour illustrations, the early animated films and worn-out stuffed toys that had been played with for years. Actual stuffed animals were physically created for reference when blocking scenes and for interaction with the actors.
Special care and attention was given to elements like Pooh’s tummy, to make sure it had the proper cuddle factor. Also to Tigger’s expressions, so he could effectively register surprise, anger and bewilderment, and to Eeyore, to make sure he had the proper amount of sag.
These efforts were greatly appreciated by the talent, as the human interaction added gravitas to their performances. “Marc is a very trusting director with the people he has asked to work with him,” says Ewan McGregor. “He gives you guidance when needed, but he makes it feel like it is his and my work and that he’s not imposing very much on me, which I liked.”
Hayley Atwell adds, “Every so often he’ll do something out of left field or he’ll really like what an actor is doing and want to explore that further. He’s an independent, original mind, and when he is taking characters that are so well known and so beloved, he obviously respects them, but then he comes in and puts a little bit of his own take on it.”
Oscar-winning visual effects companies Framestore and Iloura VFX stepped in upon completion of principal photography to create the final computer-generated character animation, taking care not to make the stuffed animals look too polished but aged and loved, and a little rough around the edges.