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The wonderful little bear

Paula Fleri-Soler takes a behind-the-scenes look at Paddington 2, the second cinematographic celebration of the world’s most beloved bear.

Paddington

Paddington

The beloved children’s character Paddington Bear first appeared in author Michael Bond’s 1958 book, A Bear Called Paddington. Bond went on to write over 20 books featuring the duffel coat-wearing, marmalade sandwich-loving bear. It sold over 35 million copies worldwide and was translated into 40 languages. Paddington’s Finest Hour, the last book written by Bond, who passed away last June, was released last January.

The antics of this wonderful little bear who travels from Darkest Peru to London, 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.

The film Paddington, released in 2014, also became an instant classic beloved by kids, adults and critics of all ages, and went on to gross over €250 million worldwide.

Paddington 2 tells the continuing story of Paddington, now settled in with his new family, the Browns. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s forthcoming 100th birthday, Pad­dington spots a unique pop-up book in an antique shop and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But the book has also caught the eye of a local celebrity, the actor Phoenix Buchanan, whose designs on the book are less than altruistic.

“We had a lot of ideas that never made their way into the first film because they always felt like they belonged in a sequel, rather than an origin story,” says the film’s director Paul King, who co-wrote the script with Simon Farnaby. “It always felt like it would be fun to see Paddington at work. And he’s such a decent character that it felt it could be emotionally satisfying to see him fall prey to an injustice.

Paddington is once more voiced by the delightful Ben Whishaw, who gave more to the character than his vocal talent

Paddington is once more voiced by the delightful Ben Whishaw, who gave more to the character than his vocal talent. “When it came to Paddington’s facial animation a lot was taken from Ben Whishaw himself. There’s so much that can be conveyed by the face, every expression or small eye line adjustment can give such a change to how a character feels,” says Liam Russell, the film’s lead animator. “There’s so much more to animating dialogue than just the voice, and being able to include Ben’s specific expressions into our animation really helped to bring Paddington to life.”

Having battled Nicole Kidman’s evil Millicent Clyde in his first cinematic outing, Paddington’s nemesis this time round is Phoenix Buchanan, a former West End actor whose star has somewhat waned. Director King says he only had one actor in mind for the role.

“I wrote Hugh Grant a letter saying that we had written this part of a vain, washed-up old has-been with him in mind and, luckily, he took it with great humour,” he says. “He’s such a great comic actor, with such a splendid sense of the absurdity of his profession, and it’s very pleasing to see him sending the whole thing up.”

Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins return as Mr and Mrs Brown, heads of Paddington’s adoptive family. Mr Brown is currently experiencing a mid-life crisis.

“He’s been passed over recently for a promotion,” explains Bonneville. “He starts dyeing his hair, and takes up an extreme form of yoga. But he’s not very good at it. Men of a certain age, or in a similar situation to Mr Brown, might sympathise with him.”

Hawkins was delighted to return to Paddington’s world. “They are this great team and work incredibly well together,” she says of the Browns. “I think that’s what is so brilliant about them. When there’s a crisis, and I think this can be said about many people, you can find this incredible spirit, and do anything. When there’s somebody you love who is in danger, there’s no end to what you can do. I think that’s what this film, in its essence, is about.”

Joining Whishaw, Bonneville, Hawkins and Grant is an all-star cast including Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber, owner of the antique shop where Paddington finds the pop-up book; Julie Walters as the Browns’ eccentric housekeeper, Mrs Bird; Peter Capaldi as the Browns’ snooping, suspicious neighbour, Mr Curry; and Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin as the Browns’ children, Judy and Jonathan.

Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon lend their voices to Paddington’s Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo; while Brendan Gleeson comes on board the Paddington train as an imposing prison cook, the wonderfully-named Knuckles McGinty.

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