Paddington came out in 2014 and, to general surprise, turned out to be really quite good. The adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved stories about an immigrant bear in London combines live-action actors with cgi animals, animated by British studio Framestore. The movie garnered near-universal praise; many critics noted the richness and subtlety of the animation.
In this insightful 15-minute video essay, animator Oswald Iten breaks down Paddington Bear’s performance in the film, explaining why it works so well. Comparing him with other recent talking bears like Ted and Baloo, Iten argues that Paddington strikes a good balance between realism and caricature. Framestore’s team weren’t confined to naturalistic movement, like Disney’s on The Jungle Book — but nor did they resort to a zany cartoonish style, which might have seemed incongruous in a live-action world.
Iten lays out the techniques the animators use to anthropomorphize Paddington and give him a vivid personality. Among his observations: Paddington makes no unnecessary gestures, and his facial quirks resemble those of Ben Whishaw (who voices him). Iten’s analysis is fascinating to watch, especially ahead of the release of Disney’s The Lion King, which makes much of its photorealist approach.
Online video essays by fans and pros alike are an increasingly valuable tool in film studies. At the best, they make smart use of clips and soundtrack to teach aspects of film language more directly than prose ever could. Iten’s other subjects include the use of color in Studio Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies and the pastiche of stop motion in The Lego Movie. We’ll be spotlighting more helpful videos like these in the near future, so stay tuned.