With an Artist’s Help, Paddington Can Go Anywhere

Paddington is the busiest bear in Hollywood.

While fans wait another year for the third installment of his film franchise, Paddington has found time for roles opposite Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro. He celebrated a goal with Ted Lasso, slipped on a spacesuit for “Interstellar” and appeared onstage with David Byrne. He devoured spicy wings on “Hot Ones,” cracked open a children’s book with LeVar Burton on “Reading Rainbow” and recently joined Thanksgiving feasts with characters from “Peanuts,” “The Sopranos” and “The Simpsons.”

It is a daunting schedule made possible by the hard work and creativity of Jason Chou, a self-described Paddington enthusiast, who has spent nearly three years harnessing the magic of Photoshop to teleport the marmalade-loving, escapade-seeking, hard-staring bear into scenes from popular films and television shows.

“At this point, I feel like some people anticipate it every day,” said Mr. Chou, 27, a student at Gnomon, a visual effects school in Los Angeles, “and it’s hard to let them down.”

Mr. Chou, who has created a Paddington-related post every day since March 2021, is nearing a milestone: his 1,000th post, which, barring a Paddington-esque misadventure, will go live on Sunday. (The posts often appear after midnight on the East Coast.) Mr. Chou’s work lives on X, formerly known as Twitter, where he has more than 340,000 followers under his handle, @jaythechou, and where he has pledged to “Photoshop Paddington into a movie, game, or TV show until I forget.”

Thanks to the work of Mr. Chou, Paddington has appeared in “Scream,” “28 Days Later,” “Halloween” and “Home Alone.”Credit…Jason Chou

The milestone is, if nothing else, one of the internet’s more unusual feats of endurance. (He has yet to forget.) In a telephone interview, Mr. Chou described his creative process.

“I basically just try to fit him into a scene,” he said.

Few people have Mr. Chou’s persistence, but Geoffrey Palmer, another internet artist, is one of them. Inspired by Mr. Chou’s work, Mr. Palmer has, for the past couple of years, spent a few minutes each weekday morning photoshopping Paddington into various tableaus from Magic: The Gathering, the fantasy card game.

Yes, Mr. Chou has spawned a Paddington Photoshop coaching tree.

“Anyone who loves Paddington is probably a good person,” Mr. Chou said.

Mr. Palmer, 38, who makes television commercials for a mattress company, described Paddington as “a purely good thing that exists,” which helps explain why any of this works.

As a beloved character from children’s books, animated television shows and now a film franchise — “Paddington in Peru,” the third film of the series, will be released in the United States in January 2025 — Paddington is known for his innate curiosity, which often lands him in sticky situations.

Paddington hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2017, but Mr. Chou, a visual effects student in Los Angeles, has kept the beloved character on the move.Credit…Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

“He sort of steps through all these different scenes in wonderment,” said Mr. Palmer, who lives in Prior Lake, Minn. “So it feels natural that Paddington would suddenly be in ‘The Godfather’ or in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse. I think it’s the whimsy of it that people appreciate and connect with so much.”

Mr. Chou has always sought to stay true to Paddington’s principles.

“Even in some of the action scenes, I kind of find myself saying: ‘Oh, Paddington! Don’t do this!’” he said. “I’m scared that one of these days I’m going to accidentally turn Paddington into a bad guy or something.”

Mr. Chou’s winding path to Paddington traces back to a childhood love of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. His mother fed his obsession by presenting him with a boxed set of the movies, which included a DVD devoted to special effects.

“I watched that all day,” Mr. Chou said.

Soon enough, Mr. Chou was making his own animations with clay, and he continued to pursue his artistic interests in high school and at the University of California, Irvine, where he studied film and video production. It was while Mr. Chou was a student there that the seeds of his Paddington opus were sown.

Inspired by Mr. Chou, Geoffrey Palmer began inserting Paddington into images from the Magic: The Gathering universe. His version of Progenitus came after a request from Mr. Chou.Credit…Geoffrey Palmer

He recalled being stuck on a freeway in Southern California one winter afternoon in 2018. He was feeling anxious about school and about finding a job, and the traffic — well, the traffic was brutal.

“I thought: You know what? I’ll just go watch a movie,” he said.

Mr. Chou pulled off the freeway and found a cinema, which happened to be showing “Paddington 2.” The woman at the concessions stand told him that he would love it. Mr. Chou had no idea that Paddington’s escapades would affect him so profoundly.

The consistency of Paddington’s character resonated with him. Throughout the film, Paddington remains his bighearted, accident-prone self even as those around him change — and change for the better, often because of their interactions with him. Consider the unlikely friendships he makes in a prison full of hardened criminals. (Spoiler: Paddington goes to prison.)

“But he just keeps doing his thing,” Mr. Chou said. “And no matter how many obstacles you throw at him, the power of being polite and being kind gets him through everything. I just felt so happy at the end.”

A few years later, with free time during the pandemic, Mr. Chou was a regular visitor to Reddit. Social media challenges were in vogue, and Mr. Chou acknowledged that he “needed something to do.” So he photoshopped a giant Paddington into a scene from “Godzilla vs. Kong” and posted it to a film-related subreddit, pledging to do something similar every day.

“Paddington 2” was critically acclaimed and grossed more than $200 million worldwide. The third installment of the film franchise, “Paddington in Peru,” will be released in the United States in January 2025.Credit…Getty Images

“It was sort of light and fun content, to cheer people up,” Mr. Chou said. “And it kept growing.”

The subreddit quickly turned into a forum for “film nerds to just kind of geek out about a photoshopped bear in their favorite movies,” said Jarick Simbol, one of Mr. Chou’s avid followers.

Mr. Simbol, 28, used the platform Letterboxd to catalog the films and television shows that Mr. Chou used in his ever-expanding Paddington portfolio, which gained an even broader audience once Mr. Chou made the move to Twitter about six months into the experiment.

Mr. Simbol tracked Mr. Chou’s posts for 665 straight days, before life got in the way.

“I got a new job, ended up having to work long hours and just couldn’t keep up,” said Mr. Simbol, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., where he works in the video game and e-sports industry. “I mean, I was just writing things down. He’s actually doing the work. I think it’s genuinely impressive.”

Since the start, Mr. Chou has prioritized consistency.

“I do one a day,” said Mr. Chou, who hopes to work in the film industry. “And it doesn’t bother me if it doesn’t get a lot of views, because that might affect the way I do things.”

Mr. Chou has had to get creative to come up with new images every day for nearly three years. His dedication has attracted a large following on social media.Credit…Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

And while he dabbled in Patreon, the monetization service for artists, he quickly abandoned that effort. He didn’t get into the Paddington Photoshop business for the money — or for fame, though he did sound bummed that Paddington doesn’t follow him on X.

“There must be a reason,” Mr. Chou said.

Neither Paddington nor his representatives at StudioCanal, the French production house that oversees the “Paddington” franchise, responded to requests for comment.

At this august stage of the series, Mr. Chou is facing challenges. Atop the list: He initially wanted to avoid using the same television show or film more than once, but that pool becomes shallower by the day.

“I kind of boxed myself in,” Mr. Chou said.

So he has made exceptions, while expanding his oeuvre to include video games and the occasional album cover. For example, there was a recent homage to Taylor Swift: “1989 (Paddington’s Version).”

“In terms of an end goal, I don’t think there is one,” Mr. Chou said. “I would just feel bad if I stopped.”

Related Articles

Back to top button