A Little Rabbit Returns to the Big Screen
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/Moviestore/Shutterstock
In spring of 2020, a new film was poised to hop onto movie screens — the sequel to 2018's family movie hit Peter Rabbit. Director Will Gluck and his family were packing for their flight to the London premiere. Then life intervened in a big way — in the form of a global pandemic. Theaters went dark, flights were canceled, and the world went into lockdown.
But you can't keep a good bunny down, and on Friday, June 11, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway made its U.S. debut at last, as it was meant to be seen: in movie theaters. We chatted with Will about mixing animation and live-action, his love of Beatrix Potter — and whether Peter is, in fact, a “good bunny.”
Peter Rabbit 2 finds Bea (Rose Byrne) and Thomas McGregor about to marry, and Bea's book about Peter's escapades about to become a hit. That's a lot of change for the rabbits and humans alike to cope with, and Peter finds himself typecast as “the naughty one.” Bea must decide whether to stay true to her vision for her stories or make them more commercial, while Peter wonders who he really is and whether he should live down to others' image of him.
Bea's dilemma is a familiar one to Gluck. “It's a push-pull between commerce and art. It's the dance about staying true to yourself and what you think is good, but you also have to get people to want to see it,” he explains. “We spent a lot of time with the Beatrix Potter estate — not only did we try to honor the characters, but we did put a lot of stuff in the background that if you know Beatrix Potter, there's a lot of Easter eggs!” Fans of Potter's work should keep a close eye on the background, where they're likely to see some familiar names among the shop signs and vehicles.
Gluck was particularly motivated to stay true to Potter's conception of Peter and his world because he felt a very personal connection to the stories. “The reason I did the movies was [because] my mom and dad read the books to me,” he says. “In fact, just the other day I realized that if my dad's name wasn't Peter, I wouldn't be making these movies. Because his mom, my grandmother, read them to him. And he was mischievous!”
“I think the Girl Scout ethos is in this movie! This is a movie your parents are going to be cool with you going to see.”
Peter Gluck and Peter Rabbit have something in common besides mischief — they both appear in the Peter Rabbit films (although the human Peter uses a screen alias). “My father appears in every single one of my movies in a speaking role — and he's not an actor, he's an architect, but I make him do it,” Will laughs. “He is [fishing] in the rowboat at the very end. We filmed in London, on the Thames, and we had to be out in the boat in freezing weather for six hours. I was the guy in the boat rowing him. It was great! It was raining and we were way out in the middle by ourselves and I had the monitor, and there was a huge barge with all this film crew, and my mom was on that.”
Gluck and his crew wanted to be true not only to Potter's sensibilities, but to the way real animals look and move. The results are striking — the rabbits, cats, chickens, and badgers look convincingly “animalian” as they interact with the human world.
“The VFX artists in Australia who designed the characters got all the bones of all the animals from the Australian Natural History Museum and used that as the basis for the rigs,” Gluck says. “So the animals can only move the way the real animals move. They spend so much time making sure the animals do what animals do.” So the creatures of the Peter Rabbit universe can stand on their hind legs — as real animals can — but you won't see them clapping or flashing a “thumbs-up.”
The results are visually lush and full of detail, making Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway a perfect movie to bring audiences off their couches and back into the movie theater — and that's exactly how Gluck wants audiences to enjoy it. “I hope people have a good time in the movie theaters again. I think we've missed all that. Watching it in the theater is different from watching in your house or apartment.” And, he adds, “I think the Girl Scout ethos is in this movie! This is a movie your parents are going to be cool with you going to see.” Family ties and staying true to who you are? Sounds like Girl Scouting to us!
Make our corn and tomato salsa, inspired by Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.