Bears still a win as a perennial favourite movie character
The creator of the classic children’s book character Paddington Bear, Michael Bond, died last week at the age of 91 – just as filming was being wrapped up on Paddington 2.
Bond’s adorable, marmalade-loving, bumbling bear will be back on the big screen once again, later this year, in a new Paddington adventure starring Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, and the voices of Ben Whishaw and Imelda Staunton.
Bond’s Paddington has come to life across books (in his lifetime, he went on to sell 35 million Paddington books), stuffed toys, merchandise and most recently movies over the years. Bonneville, learning of Bond’s death on the last day of shooting, said: “It seems particularly poignant that we should learn of dear Michael Bond’s death on the last day of shooting our second film about his unique, loveable creation. In Paddington, Michael created a character whose enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations.”
Paddington, however, is not the only soft and fuzzy bear hero to win our hearts on the big (and small) screen. Generations of teddy bear fans have delighted in the adventures of the likes of author A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, who was first published in 1958 and went on to become a kid’s classic toy, TV series and featured in movies around the world.
Pooh bear has starred in animated hits such as Winnie the Pooh and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie and there are reports that a live action Winnie the Pooh movie is set to go into production soon, featuring Christopher Robin, named after Milne’s own son, all grown up and reunited with his childhood friend.
Among their various claims to pop culture fame, Paddington and Pooh seem to have also set the path for other warm and fuzzy characters to bring smiles to viewers’ faces and spark sales of mountains of merchandise. Yogi Bear; the bears of Open Season; the 1960’s classic Jungle Book and new, live action The Jungle Book; The Country Bears; Care Bears; Brother Bear and Teddy in A.I. Artificial Intelligence have all spawned a legacy of multimedia and merchandising manifestations while winning children’s hearts over the years.
Meanwhile, characters such as Toy Story 3’s pink Lots-o-Huggin Bear and Ted have given a whole new dimension to bear characters, with Ted in particular inverting bear conventions by creating a comic adult bromance and capturing the hearts and wicked sense of humour of its own loyal 18+ following. Grown-ups can also look forward to Brigsby Bear – an unusual new psychological drama, showcased at film festivals, this year starring Kyle Mooney, Clare Danes and Greg Kinear.
It seems that while marmalade loving bears are indeed rare, bears in some form or another have their own way of – as Paddington says – “bringing people closer together in the end.”