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BYU grad's dream brought to life in new 'Christopher Robin' movie

SALT LAKE CITY — In 2003, Brigham Young University graduate and then-Disney executive Brigham Taylor pitched the company an idea to bring to life the classic characters of “Winnie-the-Pooh” in a live-action movie.

“I’d been inspired by something I’d seen in a Spielberg film about the ability to bring a teddy bear to life in a really sort of charming way,” Taylor told the Deseret News. “And I thought, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be amazing to see, in the live-action context, these characters that we’ve known and loved for so long?’”

Although the studio liked the concept, other ongoing animation projects at the time made the movie infeasible. After Taylor became a producer at Disney in 2014, the idea resurfaced. Finally, the dream 15 years in the making became “Christopher Robin,” the live-action movie that premieres nationwide on Aug. 3.

As a producer for “Christopher Robin,” Taylor played a significant role in the film's idea generation and worked as an editor during the screenwriting process. He also monitored the production quality throughout filming, which included spending weeks shooting in the rainy English countryside.

“You try to keep an eye on the end result and how are things coming together, how are things coming on screen, the casting process,” Taylor said. “Kind of all those elements, you work very closely with your director as your studio partner to try to make sure you get the best choices on screen.”

Based on the beloved characters from English writer A.A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" books, “Christopher Robin” tells the story of the title character (played by Ewan McGregor) years after he’s left the Hundred Acre Wood, when he’s traded the carefree adventure of his childhood for the life of an overworked businessman. His career begins to stand between him and those he loves most: his wife (played by Hayley Atwell) and daughter (played by Bronte Carmichael).

Producer Brigham Taylor arrives at the premiere of "The Jungle Book" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, April 4, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Producer Brigham Taylor arrives at the premiere of "The Jungle Book" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, April 4, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Richard Shotwell, Invision

“I think every one of us can identify with the fact that we get busy, we get preoccupied, we do important things,” Taylor said. “It’s important that we work and earn our livings, but sometimes our life gets out of balance in terms of still finding time to especially be with friends and family.”

Taylor is something of an authority on busy careers. In the past 12 years, he’s produced blockbusters like “The Jungle Book,” “Tomorrowland” and “Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” He’s currently working on live-action versions of “Lady and the Tramp” and “The Sword and the Stone.”

Although he's made a big name for himself in Hollywood, Taylor’s career started in Provo. He studied humanities with a film emphasis at BYU, volunteering at the Sundance Film Festival as a student. He also met his wife in Utah before landing his first job with Disney in 1994.

After Taylor became a father, he discovered VHS tapes of Disney's animated “Winnie the Pooh” cartoons and started watching them with his family. As an adult, he enjoyed the productions as much as his children, an experience that influenced making “Christopher Robin” a relevant film for both children and adults.

“Telling the story from the perspective of an adult Christopher would give all the adults in the potential audience a way in to accessing the story and to understanding what the value of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends was to them,” Taylor said. “Everyone’s grown up with these characters, and oftentimes we outgrow them, but I’ve felt that these characters have relevance for people of all ages, so I wanted to explore that through the lead character being an adult.”

According to Taylor, the characters remain relevant for everyone because of their emphasis on spending time with those you love. He said Winnie-the-Pooh is the perfect vehicle to help Christopher Robin find the value of doing nothing, which Taylor interprets as “taking time to do your favorite things with your favorite people.”

“To me, that’s what the ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ books are all about,” Taylor said. “All the little misadventures really add up to one thing, which is hanging out in the woods and being together and forming these wonderful experiences.”