I discovered Paddington Bear twenty years ago, as a series of short animated stories broadcast on the Disney Channel. I recorded them on VHS, then later onto DVD, and have enjoyed following his comic adventures numerous times in subsequent years. Imagine my surprise when I saw a trailer for his debut on the Big Screen. I faced his entry into the cinema with a mixture of hope and dread, hopeful that the film would do well, and dreading how the filmmakers might attempt to revamp Michael Bond's classic character.
The film was cast with big name British actors, and I was impressed by the authenticity of their performances. Hugh Bonneville (of Downton Abbey fame) plays an insecure but devoted husband and father in Mr. Brown. Peter Capaldi (the current Doctor Who!) portrays the small-minded penny-pinching neighbor Mr. Curry. And Nicole Kidman, who has starred in nearly every important movie of the last two decades plays the villain Millicent Clyde who plots and schemes to capture Paddington's hide. (In case you're wondering, I particularly enjoyed her 2007 performance as the elegant Marisa Coulter in the film version of Philip Pullman's fantasy novel The Golden Compass). But enough of the human actors: let's get onto the star of the show, the magnificent bear from Darkest Peru! The computer-animated Paddington won me over with his boundless courage and determination, his depiction and capabilities a far cry from how I discovered him, as a simple stop-motion character imposed on a traditionally animated background. Even if his antics and adventures adventures seemed a little silly and over-the-top in places, I left the cinema feeling like the filmmakers had honored Paddington, and done so with considerable artistry.
The film also roused my interested in Michael Bond's original stories. I purchased a picture book from Amazon.com, and while the illustrations were well-drawn and colorful, they reminded me of the animated shorts I had fallen in love with, which I knew were based on chapters of Michael Bond's novels. So I headed to the library, where I searched the computer system for his books. Like Paddington, I nearly fell over backwards when I learned that the entire San Diego Library system held but a single copy of his introductory novel, A Bear Called Paddington.
Needless to say, I gave the computer monitor a very hard stare.
Thankfully, Amazon.com offered copies of the book for sale. I ordered A Bear Called Paddington, and waited impatiently for it to arrive. Unfortunately, then I got a sick tummy, perhaps because of all the anticipation coursing through me. But not only is that a story to finish tomorrow, it demonstrates how much like the film version of Mr. Brown I am, with all my anxieties and insecurities, and how much more brave and adventurous like Paddington I need to become.