When production companies come to Cumbria they are usually looking for dramatic scenery and isolated locations. However, on Peter Rabbit the team at Animal Logic were looking to replicate the idyllic Lake District found in Beatrix Potter’s classic childrens’ books.
We spent a good deal of time in summer 2016 scouting the perfect spots for the movie’s opening sequence, in some cases using helicopters to best match the storyboards and previsualisations. The director chose a hilltop and outcrop near Hawkshead, less than a mile from Hill Top Farm, Beatrix’s house. Throughout the preproduction and shoot we received huge support from the National Trust South Lakes Office, who arranged a private tour of Hill Top early in the process and helped secure permissions with tenants and parish councils in a busy tourist area.
Principal photography took place on a wonderful set built in Sydney’s Centennial Park. This was extended by backgrounds, aerials and various exteriors were shot during the Cumbria shoot across Spring 2017. On top of Animal Logic's amazing creature animation, it was fascinating to see how the garden and burrow sets were extended and blended with real Cumbrian locations, even down to authentic dry stone walls and streams all shot in Sawrey and Grasmere.
For the village locations we received invaluable support from Creative England's Cumbrian Film Partnership, which works with local authorities across the county to help ensure a smooth shoot for incoming productions. Through this partnership we met all the right people early in pre-production, which made the process much easier, and with the support of Cumbria Police, Highways and South Lakeland District Council, we managed to get unprecedented permission to control traffic Windermere and Ambleside. The production also received great support from local independent businesses, particularly The Ambleside Toy Shop, Peter Hall boutique and the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway.
The goodwill we received from residents, businesses and tourists in the South Lakes is testament to Beatrix Potter's work to preserve the beauty of the Lake District. Swallows & Amazons, The Force Awakens and now Peter Rabbit have shown that the Lake District is a serious destination for major feature productions, who can bring considerable financial benefit to the local economy.
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