Paddington Bear was first introduced to children in Michael Bond‘s 1958 book, A Bear Called Paddington and the subsequent Paddington Bear series has sold over 35 million copies and been translated into 40 languages. The antics of the little bear from Darkest Peru, whose perfect manners and good intentions frequently lead to comical mishaps and moments of high chaos, have captured hearts the world over and the stories are now internationally recognised as modern children’s classics.
It’s perhaps surprising that it has taken so long for Paddington Bear to be made into a film. Following several incarnations for the small screen – including a hugely successful 56-episode British television series which began in 1975, designed and directed by Ivor Wood for FilmFair with the distinctive narration of Michael Hordern – this particular PADDINGTON marks the very first time that author Michael Bond has given his blessing for his beloved characters to be brought to the big screen.
Certainly, as David Heyman (producer of all 8 record-breaking HARRY POTTER films) explains, these are stories that have a modern-day relevance which is ready to be shared: “When I revisited the Paddington Bear stories – over 9 years ago now – I was immediately struck by how funny they were. They made me laugh, but equally, they moved me. Paddington is, in essence, a universal story – about an outsider in search of a home – one that we ALL can relate to.”
Executive Producer Rosie Alison who instigated the idea of bringing Paddington to the cinema, has her own take on the appeal of the original stories to a 21st century audience: “Like David, I had read the stories of Paddington Bear as a child and I always loved the idea that you have London – the ‘big city’- and this polite, hat-raising, English-speaking bear just walking around, travelling on the underground, using the buses… That ‘fish-out-of-water’ aspect had always delighted me as a child and we felt it was ripe for modern cinema and a new generation.”
Then came the task of finding the right filmmaker to bring Paddington to life. David Heyman says, “I had always been an admirer of Paul King’s work: his comic sensibility, his vivid imagination and his work with actors. I was watching his first film BUNNY AND THE BULL and was struck by one sequence in which the sets were essentially line drawings in the style of Ivor Wood’s Paddington TV series. Paul came in for a meeting and I discovered not only was he passionate about Paddington but he knew the stories and the various TV series better than I did! Those first conversations were so exciting and inspiring and so he joined us on the journey, developing the project, first working with Hamish McColl on a draft and then writing his own script.”
Heyman continues, “Paul King is one of THE most exciting talents to emerge from the UK in recent years. He is like Paddington is so many ways—charming, polite, principled, full of heart, with a sense of wonder and yes, he also has a bit of a belly.”
“Like most people of my generation, I have very fond memories of Paddington from childhood. I grew up with the FilmFair animations and his teddy bear took pride of place in my bedroom, but it wasn’t until I revisited the stories as an adult that I asked why this particular character had so entranced me. There’s no shortage of talking animals in children’s literature, but few have the enduring appeal of Paddington. For me, the secret lies in his label: “Please Look After This Bear. Thank you”.
“PADDINGTON” is released and distributed by CAPTIVE CINEMA.
SHOWING ON FEBRUARY 11, 2015.