Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Winnie the Pooh - Traditonal, Fresh and Wonderful

Winnie the Pooh, Disney's most recent return to hand-drawn feature animation, proves both traditional and fresh, charming in its simplicity and possessing a gentle humor that inspires smiles and quieter laughter.  It is a wonderful film, especially for the most youngest audience members, but manages to retain a level of sophistication that will certainly satisfy older viewers.  It arrives this week in a myriad of home entertainment formats.

Poor Pooh Bear has been stretched pretty thin over the past couple of decades.  He remains the centerpiece of one of Disney's most lucrative franchises, and hence has been reinterpreted and reinvented almost non-stop since Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree debuted in 1966.  Over this time, the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood have been brought to life on both film and television via animation (Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and theatrical and direct-to-video features), costumed actors (Welcome to Pooh Corner), bunraku-style puppetry (The Book of Pooh) and rather uninspired and misguided CG animation (My Friends Tigger and Pooh).  In this context, Winnie the Pooh directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall have done something entirely new and different--they returned to Pooh's roots, as represented by the original A. A. Milne stories and Disney's original short features from the late 1960s.  It's a very welcome creative turn.

The film is a near seamless mixture of beautiful scenery, appropriate music, comfortable storytelling and traditional Pooh silliness, deftly executed to entertain the younger crowd and bring forth nostalgic memories and good feelings to the adults in the crowd.  And with good reason--the credits include names such as Andreas Deja, Mark Henn, Eric Goldberg and Dale Bear.  Most notably, Studio veteran and Disney Legend Burny Mattinson, who worked on the original Pooh films, served as the movie's Story Supervisor.

The new songs by Robert Lopez (Avenue Q and Finding Nemo-The Musical) and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez complement recycled Pooh standards by the Sherman Brothers, and the musical sequence "The Backson," is an eye-popping delight with its chalkboard inspired artistry.

DVD bonus features are adequate for the family demographic but slight for the animation enthusiast.  Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too is an all too brief profile of the famous bear and his history.  Also included are five deleted scenes presented by directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall, and two animated shorts, The Ballad of Nessie and Pooh's Balloon (actually just recycled material from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree).


Josh said...

I have to admit that this film didn't quite win me over, much as I wanted it too. It was alright, but some of the voices didn't work for me (Owl and Christopher Robin in particular). The music was the real miss for me; after watching that film, I couldn't hum a bar of a single one of those songs - they just didn't stick.

The Sherman Brothers should have gotten the call, not Avenue Q!