Mark Foster

An Interview with Christopher Robin Director, Marc Forster

Marc Forster
Marc Forster – Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

The movie, Christopher Robin, began to play in theaters last Friday. I had the privilege to speak with the main cast and also the director, Marc Forster about the movie. I’ve published my interviews with Ewan McGregor, Jim Cummings, Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael earlier this week. I hope that you have enjoyed reading them and also my red carpet recap and Christopher Robin movie review. On that trip to California I was hosted by Disney to attend the Christopher Robin Premiere on the Walt Disney Studios Lot. Disney took care of my airfare and accommodations, plus meals and some small gifts. I was not paid for my participation and all opinions are my own. I may link to items on Amazon in this article, they are affiliate links for which I receive a small amount of money at no cost to you. What follows is my interview with Christopher Robin director, Marc Forster. It was Marc’s vision, attention to detail and careful reverence to the original works of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard that shaped this movie into the very special thing that it is. Not to mention the care he took in selecting the cast.

Marc Forster
Marc Forster – Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

We sat down with Marc towards the end of our interviewing day. I think we caught him off guard with our enthusiastic cheering and clapping welcome. He certainly seemed to enjoy that. We got right down to it and asked him about how he went about choosing the cast. Marc has known Ewan McGregor since 2003-04 when they worked on the movie, Stay together. Ever since then they have been friends. Ewan expressed that he has wanted to work with Marc again and this was the perfect project. Marc explained that Ewan is so good comedically and dramatically and that he’s so likable that you want to connect with him. This was very important to have a person like this play the adult Christopher Robin. You need the audience to like him and connect with him.

If you did not have an actor who could do this then you wouldn’t want to root for him when he is at his low points. You want Christopher Robin to become playful again and reconnect with his family that so desperately wants him in their lives, fully present. Marc went on to say that the movie for him is ultimately about love and everything leads to love. There is even a symbol of love and an open heart in the red sweater that Pooh wears and that Christopher wears later in the movie when his heart is opened again.

The Robin Family
Bronte Carmichael plays Madeline Robin, Ewan McGregor plays her father Christopher Robin and Hayley Atwell plays her mother Evelyn Robin in Disney’s heartwarming live action adventure CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Photo: Disney Movie Still

We then asked Marc how he became involved with the project. He didn’t quite tell us exactly, however he did relate a story of a conversation between himself and his daughter that put the idea in his head. Marc said, “I was in a plane with my daughter and we were flying to a vacation and she’s watching an iPad, a Pooh cartoon and she suddenly turned to me and said, ‘hey, can’t you make a movie for kids once? All your movies are like, dark and for grownups and I can’t watch any of them.’ She was six at the time and I said jokingly, ‘yeah, why don’t we do Pooh.’ All the stars aligned. And three years later, we made Pooh.”

This gave me the opportunity to ask the question of why Christopher Robin had a daughter instead of a young son. Was that choice influenced by his conversation with his daughter. He said that in an indirect way, yes. He also went on to say that life imitates are and especially over the last few months of working on the movie his daughter said that she never sees him. And here Marc is with an August 3rd deadline to complete the movie. I can relate and I’ve written at length about that in the film’s review.

Marc Forster
Director Marc Forster attends the world premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at the Main Theater on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA on July 30, 2018. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)

After that question we asked if there were any particular challenges in keeping things historically accurate since this is very much a period piece. Marc said, “We did a lot of research and the idea was going back to the mid Twenties when Pooh was created and Christopher Robin played with him and then pick up the movie with the last Milne book and Christopher gets sent to boarding school. Then the film ends in post war 1949. The interesting thing is the early Fifties was actually a time and in England when people had paid vacation. That all sort of aligned with our storytelling of Winslow Luggage. When he brings up this idea of it’s important for people to do nothing and we take a vacation and sort of enjoy that.”

A question was asked about the strong symbolism found within the movie. Marc said, “I like metaphors in general. Obviously, when the daughter leaves the drawing for him and when she finds his drawings. She say, “I didn’t realize you could draw.” Later when he hits the table and then the honey falls down, the honey is supposed to then wake up Pooh. Ultimately, when he [Christopher Robin] sees the drawings, that’s when they come back in is consciousness and that’s when the animals come alive again.

The look of the characters in the movie are a combination between the classic drawings of Pooh and the Disney versions of Pooh. James, The Rock Father, asked the question of how many iterations of the character design did they go through to get that look. Marc said, “Michael Kutsche, the character designer and I went back, I showed him all the Shephard’s early drawings and I showed him the first black and white animation drawings from Disney. I said, look, I love this about the Shephard ones, this about the early Disney drawings. Let’s combine it and then he started drawing them and creating 3D models. We started looking at all these different materials to find the right material. Then Jenny Beavan knitted the red sweater and we created that stuffed animal based on his drawings. It took us a couple months to get it right. I wanted them to all feel hugged and loved. That they were not new stuffed animals off the shelf. They felt like the boy played with them and was a history between them.

Mark Foster

The movie has a lot of beautiful imagery and much was shot on location. How much was true to the locations that you filmed in? Marc said, “We shot lots of in Ashtown Forrest. Literally next to where Milne’s estate is and where the real Hundred Acre Woods forest was. That forest is like a dream, maybe ten miles down the road where we shot. The little river where we built our Pooh bridge is connected to the same river where the real Pooh bridge is. So it’s all the same woods and neighborhood. We shot a little bit at Windsor Park outside Windsor Castle where the Queen’s park is. The great thing about that particular forest is that it’s sort of untouched. Every tree that falls down can’t be touched. Everything is just how nature brings it and it’s very wild and looks also very beautiful. So we shot, I would say like fifteen percent there and the rest at Ashtown.

World Premiere Of Disneys Christopher Robin
BURBANK, CA – JULY 30: (L-R) President of Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production, Sean Bailey, screenwriters Alex Ross Perry, Allison Schroeder, producer Kristin Burr, actor Jim Cummings, executive producer Renee Wolfe, actor Brad Garrett, director Marc Forster, actors Ewan McGregor, Bronte Carmichael, Hayley Atwell, songwriter Richard M. Sherman, producer Brigham Taylor and VP production at Walt Disney Pictures, Jessica Virtue attend the world premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at the Main Theater on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA on July 30, 2018. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Are there any Easter Eggs in the film that you can share? Since we had stayed for the end of the credits we saw something very special. Marc explained how that came about. “I think for me the Richard Sherman was the Easter egg in a sense. Did you hear a second song as well? Over the credits? I just thought it would be great if Richard Sherman would write me one song. He suddenly came back with three songs, we only wanted the song for the beginning, but then the other songs were so incredible, I said, we have to put them in there.

So I felt it would be great to show them all on a beach. We didn’t have it in the schedule and it wasn’t really budgeted. It was right where we shot the train station set when he’s running through the train station. Next to the train station was the beach. It was in Dover, so I said to line producer, I’m just going to over to the beach. We have so many extras here. Just stick them in bathing suits. We run over, I’m taking a camera. Just shoot it. And he said, ‘I can do this in two hours.’

Lounging with the cast of Christopher Robin

So we, we’re running over there and I suddenly said now we need the piano on the beach as well. So to have him play the piano. And we’re panning over and it all came spontaneous to me to put the four chairs next to the guys and put the animals in there. That all came literally within five minutes. Like, put the four chairs and then we did like, one take of that. That’s the two actors sit there eating the ice cream. One says, ‘I think things are changing and it’s for the better.’ Then we just move over and there were the four animals. Then I showed the film to a friend of mine and he said to me, ‘you know my favorite Eeyore quote. “Thank you for noticing me.” It’s not in the movie!’ I said, ‘we have to put the, that quote in the movie.’ So I’m going through the movie and I can’t find the right spot. So I’m going to the end part, where they sit, all the four of them and I have Eeyore go, “thank you for noticing me” as the last line.

Ewan McGregor - Minnie Mouse - Mickey Mouse - Richard M. Sherman - Marc Forster World Premiere Of Disney Christopher Robin
BURBANK, CA – JULY 30: (L-R) Actor Ewan McGregor, Mickey Mouse, Songwriter Richard M. Sherman, Minnie Mouse and Director Marc Forster attend the dedication and re-naming of the historic Orchestra Stage, now the Sherman Brothers Stage A, on the Disney Burbank lot prior to the world premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at the studio’s Main Theater, on July 30, 2018.
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

What message do you hope everyone takes home from the film?

When Marc was asked the question above he told us, “I think it’s so important to have hope, joy and, and really it’s about love and Pooh is about love and reconnecting with the people you love. We all guilty of that, everybody works so much today that to find that balance between work and the people you care for and ultimately, we all don’t spend enough time or attention to the people we love. I think that’s really why we’re here, to connect with one another.

Marc Forster
Marc Forster – Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

Which character do you like the best?

Marc said, “Definitely for me it’s Pooh and right second it’s Eeyore and Piglet. I have definitely Eeyore, Piglet side of me. I’m a very big optimist, but there’s still sometimes where I think, oh, it’s too late, too this and there’s sort of Piglet. These moments of worry and fear creeps in and suddenly I think ‘what am I doing?’ But I think Pooh had that gift to, to be very Zen. If a boat would sink, I probably would be the one who’s, ‘oh no, no, no, it’s not gonna sink. We’re all gonna live. It’s all gonna be fine.’ Maybe it’s called denial [LAUGHS].”

Brad Garrett - Jim Cummings - Marc Forster - Ewan McGregor - Bronte Carmichael - Hayley Atwell - Richard M. Sherman - World Premiere Of Disney's "Christopher Robin"
BURBANK, CA – JULY 30: (L-R) Actors Brad Garrett, Jim Cummings, Director Marc Forster, actors Ewan McGregor, Bronte Carmichael, Hayley Atwell and Songwriter Richard M. Sherman attend the world premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at the Main Theater on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, CA on July 30, 2018.
(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Was there a scene that you were most proud of, or most powerful to you?

“One of the scenes which I love is the center scene when Christopher Robin sits down next to Pooh and explains to him how he isn’t himself anymore. He [Christopher Robin] apologized to him {Pooh] and ultimately seeing that hug and then Pooh says, ‘you’re squeezing me again.’ That moment, I just love it because ultimately it’s about Christopher waking up. Christopher Robin realizes who he really is and what he has become. From then on, he makes a moment of change and then when he’s in the train and starts playing the game that Pooh played earlier, it’s very sweet.”

Marc Forster Group Photo
Marc Forster – Photo credit: Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com

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You can view the adorable trailer below.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN In Theaters Now!

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