- Review by Kaya Savas - October 11, 2018
As Disney continues to explore live-action adaptations of some of its most treasured characters, we found our way to Winnie-the-Pooh via Christopher Robin. The film helmed by Marc Forster benefits from his more sentimental and deeper emotional side that we saw in Finding Neverland. We follow an adult Christopher Robin who has lost his imagination and inspiration for life only to be reunited with his childhood stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh.
The score was originally set to be composed by Jon Brion, and almost all the way through post-production that’s how it was. Until at the last second, Disney called upon Geoff Zanelli once again to come and do a last-minute fix. Disney and Geoff have been pretty quiet about it, but we all know how this industry works. It’s obvious to infer that Jon’s score wasn’t hitting all the marks that needed to be hit. Geoff came in with two weeks to go and ended up mostly re-scoring the whole film, while still utilizing some of the great work that Jon did. The end result is Geoff using some of the elements of Jon’s great work to build a remarkably emotional story of finding your inner self when life can bump you offtrack.
Christopher Robin’s score has a sound and identity that is established in its “waltzy” opening track. Zanelli introduces us to the central theme of the score right off the bat as well. The score becomes more about painting a portrait as it goes along, and the tone and emotion of it is born from the Christopher Robin character. The film introduces us to Christopher Robin as a child, and we see the detachment from Pooh and everyone else as he is forced to grow up through the death of his father and the outbreak of WWII.
The tone of the score is where the music succeeds the most. We feel this emptiness and sadness through the strings and piano. The piano is played so delicately though, so there’s this fragility in the music as the narrative unfolds. In the track “Chapters” we finally see a reawakening of sorts. Zanelli utilizes some male vocals as well as a rhythmic looping structure to create a very emotional build to tap into what Christopher Robin has lost. The score continues to take us on the journey of Robin’s childhood reuniting with him as an adult. The music is always telling the story and keeps the window into the central emotional core wide open.
Christopher Robin is such a poignant and wonderfully structured character score. Geoff Zanelli was able to craft a score full of heart that was also able to drive the narrative forward. The music is able to truly find its own voice without feeling too “Disney” as well. While the resolution has some of those “Disney” musical structures, the overall journey feels born out of the character without trying to manipulate you. Thematically and structurally, everything flows with elegance and heart. Geoff Zanelli also allows Jon Brion’s tracks to shine as they were intended, never stepping on the toes of Brion’s music but more so using them as connective building blocks. Christopher Robin didn’t make much noise when it was released, but there’s a small and special score here that is worth discovering.