In the animation world today, it seems as though bigger is always better. The more big names are attached, the more pop culture references we can throw in, and the more hi-def, 3D, mind-blowing animation we can create will automatically transfer over to ginormous ticket sales. It’s nice to know that, in a world like this, we can still have something like Winnie the Pooh.
In this simple and old-fashioned flick, the folks at Disney have thankfully abandoned all ideas that they need to modernize everything, and have stuck to the “tried and true” recipe. They also succeed in making a film that is wholesome, family-friendly, and most importantly, entertaining, with their 2011 sequel to the 1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, about everyone’s favorite “bear of very little brain.”
Based solely on A.A. Milne’s 1926 story of the same name, Winnie the Pooh follows the two separate tales from the book, one in which Eeyore loses his tail, and another where Christopher Robin is supposedly kidnapped by the nefarious “Backson.” Threading along the backstory is Pooh and his insatiable hunger and quest for honey. Sound like a simple plotline? It is, and amazingly, the beauty of the story is in the details, the clever humor, and the refreshingly innocent way a child looks at the world.
The movie is made with good old-fashioned, hand-drawn animation, with the vivid characters set against a gorgeous watercolor background. They interact with the story book itself, and as narrator John Cleese reads, the book comes alive. Indie supergirl Zooey Deschanel provides a subdued but appropriate soundtrack when the characters themselves aren’t singing, and the voice actors are pretty spot-on.
Jim Cummings continues to voice Pooh, a job he’s done wonderfully since 1988, but also has taken over Tigger duties now. Late night host Craig Ferguson is really the only other big name star to the film’s credit, doing a great Owl, but a few recognizable voices slip in there as well, like Tom Kenny (Spongebob) as Rabbit, and Bud Luckey, who you might remember from various Pixar films, as the despondent Eeyore. The rest of the crew are fresh-voiced actors, some of whom are working on their first film.
The story is a lot more clever than I remember as a child, but comparing it to the physical book proved that a lot of the story is word-for-word from Milne. It appeals to parents as well as children, but not in the way that most kids’ movies do these days, slipping double entendres in there all over the place. Like any good story should, Winnie the Pooh also contains some great morals, and by the end Pooh learns how to selflessly put friendship and others’ needs in front of his own wants and desires.
The special edition Blu-ray comes with quite a few bonus features, including a ten-minute look at the history of the “silly old bear,” a few singalongs, and deleted scenes. One animated short that played before the film in theaters is entitled “Nessie” and follows the story of the Loch Ness Monster, and how she came to settle where she did. It is a cute little tale, complete with a moral at the end, that follows suit with a lot of the Pixar shorts that come before each of those movies. Also included is a “Mini-Adventure of Winnie the Pooh,” which is actually one from many years ago, in which Pooh takes a dip in a mud puddle to disguise himself as a “little black raincloud” in order to raid the nearby honey tree.