Nearly a century after the first book by English author A.A. Milne was published, Winnie the Pooh remains as popular as ever. Cartoons, videos games and two recent theatrical feature films are continuing the tradition.
But why has the lovable, red-shirted bear, along with his friends Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest, not waned in popularity? Brigham Taylor, a producer of the Disney film “Christopher Robin” (PG), which is out on DVD and streaming platforms now, believes he knows.
“There’s a politeness, there’s a kindness about him, even when there’s problems,” Taylor said. “These characters don’t always like each other, but they always bend over backwards to be polite to one another. They always come around to an inherent generosity. On top of that, Pooh just has such a unique voice.”
“Christopher Robin” tells the story of an overworked man named Christopher Robin who rediscovers the joys of life when he bumps into his childhood friends, Pooh and the gang. Pooh, Taylor said, is able to do what Robin cannot: be present in and enjoy the moment.
“That oftentimes is one of the first things to go when do you become an overworked adult — the ability to enjoy the moment that you’re in,” Taylor said. “You’re always concerned about what’s next or what just happened. Pooh has this wonderful, nonsensical way about thinking of things that make total sense to us and he espouses this quality of enjoying where you are and what you’re doing.”
Taylor has made a career out of producing family-oriented films with Disney, having helped with more than 20 films including “The Jungle Book” (2016), “Tomorrowland” (2015) and “Secretariat” (2010). He is listed as a producer on three upcoming movies: “Lady and the Tramp,” “Jungle Book 2” and “The Sword in the Stone” (release dates have not been set). His children, he said, served as inspiration on some of his projects.
“I love these kind of films,” Taylor said. “I grew up on a steady diet of Disney films and really revered them, especially the animated classics as well as some of the wonderful live-action stuff.”
Although Disney once was known among children for its animated movies, it now is more popular for its hybrid live-action films and remakes, such as the yet-to-be-released movies “Dumbo,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
Disney’s live-action remakes have their critics, but Taylor believes they’re worth doing.
“The human condition has always been to retell stories that we like — whether that is around a campfire or restaging a play or making a talking film out of what was a silent film,” he said. “The good stories we like to hear again, especially if there’s a reason to retell them. Every time these stories get retold, I think you find more often than not that there’s something added to make it more germane or more relevant to the modern audience, but there’s also a reason to re-present it in a way you haven’t seen before. [For example,] you go see ‘Hamlet’ again because you want to say, well, what is Benedict Cumberbatch’s version of ‘Hamlet’? I’ve seen it four times, but I want to see that interpretation of it.”
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