We met Jonathan Rockefeller – the Creator and Director of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh; the new musical stage adaptation coming to our Donald Gordon Theatre from 3 – 5 August.
Hi Jonathan. It’s a pleasure to meet you and find out more about the new musical stage adaptation of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. Have you always been a fan?
Jonathan: “I first saw the cartoons before I was able to read, then as I grew older, I really enjoyed reading the stories. To this day, they remain some of the best pieces of literature and the Disney animations are wonderful, so it’s been a challenge and an honour to bring these characters to the stage. I’m especially excited for him to be back home again, on the London stage and stages around the UK. It’s going to be fantastic to present Pooh in his homeland."
Why do you think tales about Winnie the Pooh are still so beloved?
Jonathan: “I think it’s because the characters and the stories tap into the child in all of us. They’re just finding their way and exploring the world, and a lot of what happens comes from their misunderstandings or trying to wrap their heads around things. The world that A.A. Milne created is all about imagination and the wordplay he created is something we have a lot of fun with in the show.”
Is this new musical adaptation aimed at children?
Jonathan: “It’s not just for kids. In New York, we saw many adults coming along to see it by themselves. What’s great about the show is that it’s accessible on so many different levels. Very young children will love it, while older children will enjoy the jokes and the wordplay and for adults it’s like being wrapped up in that wonderful nostalgia that we all have for these characters. It’s an experience of complete joy. It’s such a heartwarming show and that’s something which in today’s world we all need.”
'It’s an experience of complete joy.'Jonathan Rockefeller
How did you pick from the many books and screen stories for this 65-minute adaptation?
Jonathan: “What’s wonderful is that we’ve been able to take A.A. Milne’s brilliant stories, Disney’s great animated featurettes and fantastic songs, and mix it all up into a new show. So even if you are incredibly familiar with all those aspects, it’s all in a completely new context. We’re paying respect to the author, the animators and the Sherman Brothers songs but putting our own spin on it.”
Tell us about the puppets!
Jonathan: “The puppets are so tactile. They’re like giant articulated plush toys. The puppeteers in some ways are like Christopher Robin in that they play with the characters and make these stuffed animals come to life.”
“All the puppeteers, not just the ones playing Pooh, have to be really talented at nuancing the characters and making sure they convey emotions, thoughts and feelings. The performers are essentially athletes. There’s Tigger with all his bouncing energy and Pooh being brought to life as a very large puppet. Then there’s the fact that because of the Disney cartoons, we all have a fixed notion of what he sounds like, so one of the biggest challenges for the actor playing Pooh is the fact that not only do they have to be a brilliant puppeteer and an athlete, they also have to capture the spirit of the voice that we know and love.”
Why should audiences in Cardiff come and see the show?
Jonathan: “You’ll really feel part of the Hundred Acre Wood from the moment you walk into the theatre. There’ll be characters and vignettes you’re familiar with - but in a new adventure. It’s everything you know and love about Winnie the Pooh.”
Thank you, Jonathan, – it sounds like the perfect sweet theatre treat.
We can’t wait to see Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Tigger too!