Interview: Winnie The Pooh Directors

Winnie the Pooh directors Don Hall and Stephen J. Anderson

Disney's WINNIE THE POOH movie went into production without a formal script. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall explain how they delivered an updated classic Pooh story without ever formalizing a screenplay.


In the new adventure of Pooh and his friends Tiger, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo, Eeyore and Piglet, the residents of Hundred Acre Wood set out to save their young friend Christopher Robin from a creature named "Backson."


Winnie the Pooh charactersWalt Disney invited CineMovie to a special presentation on Disney's studio lot in Burbank, California for a visit with the directors, storyboard artists, animators and the voice cast including Pooh's long-time voice Jim Cummings and new to the cast as Rabbit Tom Kenny, the voice behind Spongebob Squarepants.

It's not rare for directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall to start working on an animation film without a script. In their experience, a written screenplay eventually forms but that wasn't the case on WINNIE THE POOH. No formal script was ever finished. Don Hall explains the simplicity of the material and the well-known characters made it easy to go without a script. On most animated films, writers and filmmakers spend most of their time working on character development. Created in 1926 through a collection of stories by A.A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh was well-established for decades. Their only "mandate" for Winnie The Pooh was returning to its roots.

Hall and Anderson relied on the story artists to help in the development of the story. Anderson calls the process "organic" and "collaborative." They begin by writing down ideas in broad outlines and "just draw, draw, draw."  They let the ideas "fly" as they go through numerous outlines, polishing, and "punching up every iteration until it eventually it "becomes a roap map" and guide for the movie. Hall explains they heavily rely on the story artists for writing dialogue as well. Everyone chimes in during the process including letting the story artists "tear apart" the director's story boarding and writing ideas too.

Winnie the Pooh storyboards
As veterans of countless Walt Disney films (Tarzan, Meet The Robinsons), Hall and Anderson are heavily involved in training new story board artists and one of the requirements, in addition to story boarding, is teaching them to write.
"We tell storyboard artists to think like writers. We heavily educate them and teach them to think like writers. They're not just a wrist that illustrates a script. They are collaborators in the writing of the script."
Hall made it clear they are not against hiring writers. "I just want to specify We're not anti-writers in any way shape or form," said the WINNIE THE POOH co-director. Having mostly worked in animated films, this collaborative process works best for them.

WINNIE THE POOH is in movie theaters July 15, 2011.

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