“A lot of the early an­i­ma­tors had no art ed­u­ca­tion to speak of. There were all sorts of crude tricks like draw­ing around dol­lars and quar­ters for Mickey’s ears”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film -

build your story. You can end up some­place to­tally dif­fer­ent by the end of the process. We worked on King­dom of the Sun for years as a se­ri­ous pic­ture and it be­came The Em­peror’s New Groove. But that’s how you man­age lit­tle break­throughs like the talk­ing clock in Beauty and the Beast. Once that lit­tle guy was right, the movie was right.”

Mat­tin­son was born in San Fran­cisco and raised on the Dis­ney lot. His pres­ence on these stately acres is, nonethe­less, a sort of home­com­ing. Down past the sprawl­ing lawns we find the birth­place of the an­i­ma­tor’s long­est-serv­ing on-screen car­toon col­lab­o­ra­tor. Never mind the snooty sheep. Buck­hurst’s Ash­down For­est boasts an ex­tra­or­di­nary lit­er­ary lin­eage. More than 70 years ago this par­tic­u­lar stretch of wood­land in­spired lo­cal au­thor AA Milne to pen Win­ni­ethe-Pooh. Nearby sign­posts in­di­cate our prox­im­ity to Pooh­sticks Bridge, Galleon’s Lap, Roo’s Sand­pit, the North Pole and the Hun­dred Acre Wood.

“I worked on the first Win­nie pic­ture,” says Mat­tin­son. “And it al­most didn’t hap­pen. Walt had had the rights to the prop­erty for a while, but it was on the back-burner. We had some down­time af­ter One Hun­dred and One Dal­ma­tians and went to work on it. But we had only got as far as the Honey Tree and the Blus­tery Day sec­tions when Walt de­cided it would work bet­ter as 20-minute fea­turettes. He didn’t think it was funny enough to jus­tify a whole movie.” Mat­tin­son ad­mits he is still a lit­tle sur­prised that Dis­ney’s sil­li­est bear is cur­rently the biggest­selling baby brand on the planet. Mar­ket forces, how­ever, have al­ways been in­te­gral to Pooh’s progress.

“The sec­ond short won the Academy Award, so there was sud­denly a lit­tle bit of in­ter­est. Then Seers picked up on it and put it on the front of their cat­a­logues for Christ­mas. That was that. You couldn’t get one of those cat­a­logues any­where in the coun­try. Pooh’s suc­cess sur­prised ev­ery­body, not least Walt him­self. He didn’t think there’d be that much ex­cite­ment about the char­ac­ters. Even Walt wasn’t in­fal­li­ble about these things.”

More than half a cen­tury af­ter Mat­tin­son first signed up at the stu­dio, he’s back on Pooh de­tail. His con­tri­bu­tions to the brand spank­ing new Win­nie the Pooh were, he says, much like his con­tri­bu­tions to older ver­sions.

“The old Dis­ney fea­turettes were al­ways true to Milne and the orig­i­nal il­lus­tra­tions by Ernest Shep­ard, and noth­ing’s changed. We have to talk about 3D now on dif­fer­ent projects, but not on this one. It’s a new movie but it’s the old Pooh and it’s straight from the book. “These char­ac­ters are so in­no­cent. They’re a dear lit­tle fam­ily in an en­chanted for­est. We have to pro­tect them from hurt­ful jokes and the mod­ern world at all costs.”

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