Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Paddington Bear Overtakes London this Holiday Season

Who doesn't love teddy bears, those plush toys named after a failed hunting trip by president Theodore Roosevelt? They're everywhere now; we have admired a cuddly Steiff bear when visiting Germany, and we have definitely heeded the advice of Smokey the Bear. Your kids may fight over books about Corduroy or the Berenstain Bears, but the Brits have always had the one and only Paddington Bear.

Actor Hugh Bonneville with a Paddington Bear he designed

Furry brown Paddington originated in 1956 when author Michael Bond transformed a stuffed bear from Selfridges department store into the hero of a children's book series. Named for the busy train station in central London, in Bond's stories, the bear who hails from Peru wanders the city until he's adopted by the local Brown family, who keep him safe.

While unfamiliar to many American children, the hairy European hero stars in a major motion picture to be released by StudioCanal around Thanksgiving. Titled "Paddington," the mixed animation and live action film is written and directed by Paul King, produced by David Heyman, and stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi, Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman. Ben Whishaw plays the voice of Paddington.

The Paddington Trail will feature 50 different decorated bears, each 42" tall -- perfect for kids!

To commemorate the quintessentially British hero, and publicize the city's role in the film, a Paddington Trail of 50 Paddington Bear statues will be set up around the city from from November 4 to December 30, 2014. Each of the 42" tall statues has been designed by a celebrity, ranging from the film's stars to Hollywood-based British actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Sheen and Emma Watson, to the Chelsea football team, to fashion designers Christopher Kane, Lulu Guinness and Matthew Williamson, the street artist Inkie, and even David Beckham.

The statues are great fun, as you can see in this video narrated by Hugh Bonneville of "Downton Abbey" fame.

If this FTF London Family Attractions guide didn't give your family enough to see in London this holiday season, you can follow the "trail" through museums, parks, shops and landmarks.

London Tourism has also launched a dedicated section of their website visitlondon.com/paddington which will enable visitors to download the trail map, share their pictures with Paddington (and his various avatars such as Paddington Shakesbear and Paddington Sparkles), and discover the stories behind each statue and location. 

Put on your walking boots as the Paddingtons will be located from as far west as Heathrow to as far east as the O2 arena on the Thames, taking in some landmarks such as The Royal Opera House, Museum of London, Horse Guards Parade, the Museum of Childhood and, of course, Paddington Station.

Excerpt of Visit London's Paddington Trail Map, available on their website for download.

The trail ends in Selfridges (where else?), in a shop selling a variety of Paddington-related products and artifacts. Proceeds from the shop will benefit the NSPCC, a charity protecting children.  The city is also involving many hotels in special packages and even Bear High Teas, as you can see in Eileen Ogintz' roundup of London Events for Paddington Bear.

Adds actor Hugh Bonneville, “Paddington is an explorer -  this trail is a wonderful way of bringing this to life and I hope it makes people look at London with fresh eyes.  I can’t wait for people to see it.”

We can't either.

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