We need to talk about Christopher Robin – and being a kid

Hey adults – it’s okay to love the things you loved as a kid

The latest live action offering from Disney is Christopher Robin – a film that comes out just a week after I went with my wife, parents and nephew to Hartfield, Sussex, the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh.

Ashdown Forest is the inspiration for the Hundred Acre Wood, a place where Christopher Robin – modelled after A.A. Milne’s son – would go on adventures with Pooh bear. It’s really close to where I grew up but I hadn’t ever been to Pooh Corner for themed afternoon tea or going to the famous bridge to play Pooh sticks. But with the film coming out, it seemed only right to do just that.

Pooh Bridge us
Our recent trip to play Pooh sticks in Hartfield, Sussex

And between my 28-year old wife and four-year old nephew, I wasn’t sure who enjoyed themselves most. I was a Disney kid and have managed to grow into a fully-functioning Disney adult. Mrs. Izzard can also claim that title but with more specificity – she was a rather Pooh-centric Disney kid.

So sitting down at an 8.30pm viewing of Christopher Robin, (we wanted to make sure we weren’t surrounded by kids and parents that thought it was weird two 28-year olds were going to see a Pooh film on their own) we went to Hartfield for the second time in a week. In the film, Ewan McGregor’s Christopher Robin was all grown up and had forgotten all his adventures with Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore. A slave to his job at a luggage company, it took a missed weekend away with his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael) and a visit from his dear old bear to take him back to the Hundred Acre Woods to find his inner-child again.

The film initially relied on a little bit of forced nostalgia, something that was quickly replaced by something very genuine. I initially didn’t like the design of Pooh but that didn’t last long. A big shoutout to Framestore and Method Studios, because the animation was so incredibly well-executed. You could see every emotion in his face and barrels full of character in his movement and gait. I was really quickly sold that this is what Pooh would look like if I stumbled across him in Hartfield. 

Having been the voice of the old bear since 1988, it’s Jim Cummings’ voice that encapsulates the essence of how I felt about this film. I can forgive the replaced voices for Piglet, Rabbit and especially Eeyore whose melancholy composure is excellently embodied by Brad Garrett. But having Jim Cummings voice the loveable yellow bear (as well as Tigger) made the film really feel like something special.

On the whole, we both loved the film. Mrs. Izzard gave it an 8.5 out of ten. And I’d like to add a quick side note. That’s not a score for the film. My wife is a woman who rates everything on a scale of one to ten. Instead of her score reflecting how good she subjectively thinks something is, it is an indicator of her overall enjoyment.

Pooh Bridge
An E.H. Shepard drawing of Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin on Pooh Bridge

And I think this is, in most part, because, she’s that aforementioned Pooh kid. For her birthday last year, I took her to a Winnie the Pooh exhibition which had a ton of original A.A. Milne-written pages and E.H. Shepard-drawn characters – pre-Disney. We spent hours looking around the exhibition just amazed at how ink or lead on a page can have such an effect on an audience.

I’ve seen a few reviews of the film where critics say they’re unsure whether it’s supposed to be a mid-life crisis movie or a kids’ film. But why does it have to be so cut-and-dry? Why can’t it be both? Surely it’s major life events like a mid-life crisis that remind us to think more about what we love and what really brings us enjoyment.

I looked over at Mrs. Izzard more than once throughout the viewing to find her face looking exactly how I expected it to. Every time Pooh dropped some hunny, tripped over, got excited about a red balloon or demonstrated why he’s given the title of silly old bear, she grinned in a way you only do when you’re completely besotted by something.

Jess Winnie
Mrs. Izzard very excitedly meeting Winnie the Pooh, Florida 2014.

It’s the same grin she had no her face after waiting nearly an hour to see Winnie the Pooh in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Meeting characters is part of the fun of those parks. You do it for the photo or to humor someone you’re with. But it was in that moment – a moment when Mrs. Izzard buzzed up to Winnie the Pooh like she was a bee, whispered in his ear that he was her favourite character and hugged him tighter than he’d likely been hugged that day – that it was so easy to see what the character meant to her. Even if he was in fact, a woman in a suit.

But it’s this feeling of childhood that we, as a bunch of boring adults, don’t take enough time to appreciate. More than just enjoying a movie, I loved Christopher Robin because of what I could see it meant to the fully-grown woman sat next to me eating pick n’ mix on a Friday night trip to the cinema.

So let’s leave it at this. If you don’t want to go and see Christopher Robin because it’s a kids film – grow up. If you don’t think a mid-life crisis movie is for you – take it easy. Instead find something you loved as a kid and revisit it. It’s okay to love something as an adult that you not only felt an affinity for as a kid, but was transfixed by.

We should all take a minute to relish the things we enjoy – even if that thing is a plush toy eating hunny in the woods.

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