Interview: Will Gluck on finally bringing Peter Rabbit to the big screen

Will Gluck is a director/producer/writer and has worked on the film adaptation of Annie, Friends With Benefits, and the TV series The Michael J Fox show and Moonbeam City. So he may not seem like the obvious first choice to direct an adaptation of the classic Beatrix Potter tale but after acquiring the licensing rights in conjunction with the team at Animal Logic, Peter Rabbit the live action + CGI animated film has arrived.

The story of Peter Rabbit (voiced by James Corden) centres around the mischievous furry protagonist who wants to venture into Mr McGregor’s garden and raid his vegetable patch. Joining in with Peter’s antics is his three sisters, Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie) and Cotton Tail (Daisy Ridley) and his cousin Benjamin Bunny (Colin Moody). Through Peter’s antics we come to learn about his love for his family and the importance of acceptance and sharing with others. For director Gluck, bringing that classic story into a contemporary setting was going to be the first challenge.

I love Peter Rabbit growing up so I wanted to make sure that everything I loved about it and everything Beatrix Potter did was transferred as much as we can into the movie. So we kept the spirit of Peter, all the animals, the look of them, the whole time we had the rights of Peter Rabbit from the Beatrix Potter estate, and they helped us with the script, the design, the movie, so we were really wanting to make sure this was something that Beatrix Potter would be proud of, and I hope we did a good job.

The story, originally by Beatrix Potter, is quintessentially British and considered a tradition to pass on to children. Bringing the story and characters out of the written and illustrated realm and on to the big screen meant adapting it for global audiences. Surprisingly for Gluck keeping itl true to its roots has enabled it to retain a more faithful feel and probably

We made sure that it still stayed very British, we didn’t want to go away from that at all. Some people were a little worried if the American market would care about it, but they love it. I don’t think it matters, I think the Britishness is intrinsic in Beatrix Potter, so we never wanted to change it. It’s shot in the Lake District, it’s shot in London, you could not take the Britishness out of Peter Rabbit.

Besides the traditional story telling one of the key appeals lies in the characters Potter created for this world. Peter is probably best known as the hero with an endearing and charming personality that seems to win others over and forgive his mischief. His three sisters have distinct traits too, Mopsy is the eldest and enjoys bossing her other sisters around, whilst Flopsy suffers from middle child/rabbit syndrome and Cotton Tail is wild and does her own thing. Gluck wanted to make sure that the characteristics remained integral to the film and it allows the younger audience an opportunity to relate.

I think everyone has a little Peter Rabbit in them, I think everyone has a little Benjamin Bunny in them, they certainly have a little Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton Tail in them, it’s fun seeing the kids coming out saying “I’m Flopsy, I’m Cotton Tail, I’m Peter” so I think it’s universal. And the theme of family and making mistakes and owning up to your mistakes is also universal.

The trailer (see below) is loaded with laughs, and it’s very much a family film. But we wanted to check in with Gluck and see how many of those jokes ended up on the cutting room floor. It turns out, quite a lot. We can only hope that some of those gags and improvised lines at least end up on the DVD/Blu-Ray release.

Oh hundreds of jokes, more than I could answer, many many many jokes that didn’t make the final cut. The problem with a gag reel is it’s too expensive to animate these jokes so we have to cut them before they get animated, but we have got plenty of the voice actors in the booth.

Peter Rabbit will screen in Australian cinemas from 22 March 2018 through Sony Pictures Releasing