In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s Christopher Robin, the young boy who embarked on countless adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with his band of spirited and lovable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.
With 727 shots for Framestore - 677 of those featuring creature animation - the film proved an exciting challenge for a studio globally recognised for its character work, with recent credits including Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the Paddington films.
Academy Award Nominated
VES Award Nominated
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature
VES Award Nominated
Outstanding Animated Character in a Photoreal Feature
Annie Award Nominated
Character Animation in a Photo Real Feature
FICCI BAF Award Winner
VFX in a Film - International
'I’m so incredibly proud of the work Framestore accomplished on Christopher Robin… recreating these handcrafted stuffed animals and animating them so organically, so delicately, and with such artistry not seen in many other movies.'Marc Forster - Director
It was a family affair for the studio as Framestore's Oscar-nominated VFX Supervisor Chris Lawrence (The Martian, Gravity) led the overall VFX on Christopher Robin, collaborating directly with the central creative team including Director Marc Forster, and the film's Animation Director, Michael Eames, who holds the role of Framestore's Global Director of Animation.
In its 15 weeks of prep, the animation team worked in tandem on character tests, to discover how they would move, emote and embody their individual and distinct personalities. ‘Marc is an interesting director; he sees filmmaking as an art, and wanted to create something truly original’, says Lawrence. ‘He had a very strong vision from the outset that he wanted to evolve beyond the Disney cartoons, but no-one knew exactly where that would take us.’ Following design development, it was agreed that the team had found something very special in the creation of characters which resemble the toys of Christopher Robin’s childhood.
'Marc didn’t want us to come up with anything that would prevent an audience believing that the toys were anything but real’, says Michael Eames, Animation Director. ‘But at the same time, as characters, they needed to be able to perform and enabling them to have expression inevitably challenged our perception of what a ‘real’ toy could be. Primarily, we based our animation tests on how the mechanical and material makeup of the toy could ‘be’ moved - discovering what we could do to depict a range of poses, moods and expressions throughout the body and face as we went along. Ultimately, we came up with a range of motion that, whilst often extremely subtle, could be animated with enough contrast to allow a performance.’
The team acquired the designs of the models and replicated the stitching patterns, before going back in to deliberately break some of the stitches by hand to mimic the aging of the cloth. ‘Everyone had fallen in love with the physical stuffies on set, which gave us a solid starting point. We really went to great lengths to match the detail meticulously, as we see these characters so close-up’, says Theo Jones, VFX Supervisor. Material swatches from set were photographed in macro detail and given to the groom team who matched not only the length and the feel of the fur, but also the way it was pulling through the material, using a new piece of fur collision software written in-house.
'Framestore's work on Christopher Robin is a genuinely fresh and endearing approach to a group of classic characters that maintains the highest standards of animation and at times is simply beautiful.'Michael Eames - Animation Supervisor
‘Framestore has that level of detail in the animation, creature FX and the building of assets which all add up to a whole greater than its parts. The artists went the extra mile, which was the magic they brought to the film.’Chris Lawrence - VFX Supervisor
Winnie-the-Pooh is the first childhood friend to return to Christopher Robin. Animators took inspiration from a variety of sources introduced by Director Marc Forster, including Peter Sellers’ Being There, the films of Charlie Chaplin, and the book The Tao of Pooh. Says Lawrence, ‘Pooh is a very minimal performer. Ewan [McGregor] would have to do these very emotional scenes against him and he wanted to know what Pooh would be doing; the answer was a very held-back, restrained performance.’
The characters needed to interact with the real world, touching and moving amongst live-action elements. ‘There is one scene where Pooh reaches out and strokes a flower, and you really want to feel that connection’, says Lawrence. Pooh’s CG fingertips move against a real plant that was being manipulated by a rod on set. ‘We wanted it to feel like Pooh was literally stroking the plant; the contact was so important that we simulated every hair on his paw as though he'd touched it.'
The end credits also bought its own unique challenge. Disney Legend Richard Sherman had recently celebrated his 90th birthday when he was asked to compose and perform a song. As he could not make it to the shoot, a body double was shot for the piano performance. A team from Framestore’s LA office, led by VFX supervisor Michael Ralla and Senior Producer Morgan MacCuish, met with Richard to perform the facial capture needed to composite Richard’s face seamlessly in the final edit.
Adding even more to the film’s endeavour, Framestore’s Advertising division was tasked with turning out a run of theatrical posters starring the film’s animated heroes, plus a set of short-form animations that see Pooh and co. put in the press junket hot-seat. Framestore also worked to create an AR Facebook Sticker of Pooh ahead of the film’s release, for the social platform’s Messenger App, drawing on CG, animation and tech development talent from across its global offices.
Able to seamlessly share knowledge and assets with the Film-side artists, such assets are further example of Framestore’s cross-platform capabilities, and inherent ability to build worlds of content around an IP.
'it offers tactile computer animation that, even for the effects-jaded, makes it look as if the actors are interacting with real stuffed animals.'Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times
'It’s startling how photo-real the characters look, from the way the CG fabric stiffens and folds at the back of Piglet’s neck to how Pooh slightly swivels as he walks on his toy legs.'E. Oliver Whitney, Screen Crush
'The photo-real CG is so tactile and lifelike that it’s thrilling just to watch the stuffed animals hang out and eat honey.'David Ehrlich, Indiewire
'I’d wager this has some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen in a Disney movie, although it’s so invisible and low-key, people probably won’t get just how amazing the VFX actually are.'Chris Bumbray, Joblo
'The film never could have worked if it wasn’t made with as much respect and, more, love. Love seems to explode from every frame of Christopher Robin'Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast
'The character design is exquisite, finding a way to make the stuffed animals come off as welcoming and friendly'Matt Goldberg, Collider
'Animation supervisor Michael Eames and his team create expressive figures who seem genuine and never lose their identity as toys'Leonard Maltin, leonardmaltin.com
'Christopher Robin is the most heart-wrenching Disney movie since Toy Story 3'Ian Cardona, CBR
'The film’s main triumph is the way that the toy characters are evoked'Wendy Ide, Screen International
'Each [character] is impressively crafted on screen as well as perfectly voiced'Jason Kerin, The Upcoming