Winnie the Pooh – Movie ReviewAugust 6, 2011
Now is a good time to return to the Hundred Acre Wood.
Back in the old days, Disney didn’t produce films about drunken pirates, musical high school students, or cash-in direct-to-video sequels; in those days, Disney Animation Studios produced films like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. They were harmless, silly, fun, and even meaningful. Those were the sorts of movies that I grew up with, and for a while Disney has forsaken that namesake for less emotionally resonant films. Yet, Disney finally returned to form with last year’s Tangled, and now they are attempting to evoke nostalgia in moviegoers with Winnie the Pooh. Did they succeed in doing so? Let’s find out…
The story of the 1970s original, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, actually involved a string of three individual shorts with their own subplots; in contrast to that film, the story of Winnie the Pooh is written for the film’s entirety, but there are still three subplots that make up the narrative (all three are based off stories from A.A. Milne’s books). The main conflict here is that Pooh Bear (voiced by Jim Cummings) is continually foiled in his attempts to satisfy his immense hunger for honey. Later, we learn that Eeyore (voiced by Bud Luckey) has lost his tail, and the entire cast of characters search for a suitable replacement. Finally, Owl (Craig Ferguson) is led to believe that Christopher Robin was captured by a monster named the Backson, and the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood then go on a silly rescue mission to save their human friend. When put together, the plotline isn’t exactly that great, but what would you expect from this kind of film? It’s simple enough for children to understand, but at least it’s not dumbed down to the point where it will put off most adults. A lesson your children will probably learn in the end is that they should learn to care more for their friends rather than focus on selfish desires (which correlates to Pooh’s honey hunt). In addition to a good plotline, Winnie the Pooh also sports a more than decent script that is simple enough for children, but intelligent enough for adults. More often than not, there was witty and charming dialogue that I found quite clever, and although this film isn’t exactly hilarious, Winnie the Pooh does have many funny moments due to its writing. You might have noticed that the film’s runtime is just a few minutes past an hour, and although this makes it short and sweet, I was engaged to the point that I desired more after its ending.
I think the thing that’s on most people’s minds who are interested in this film is, “How do the new voices of each character sound?” Well, let me tell you. Jim Cummings is absolutely spot-on as Winnie the Pooh, and although he is very good as Tigger, I prefer Paul Winchell’s voice work from the original film. I initially didn’t like Craig Ferguson’s voiceovers for Owl, but as the film went on his voice acting grew on me. Bud Luckey is also fantastic as Eeyore, Tom Kenny (best known for his work as SpongeBob SquarePants) is great as Rabbit, and I also very much enjoyed the voice work that was done for Piglet and Roo. Now, you must be wondering what the bad voiceovers are, and trust me, there are a couple of them. My family shares my belief that the voice actor for Christopher Robin is terrible; his voice sounds more like a toddler rather than a tween from the original film. The woman who voices Kanga also sounds much younger than that of the original film, and this annoyed me very much. Nonetheless, a number of the voice actors were casted well (especially Jim Cummings). John Cleese isn’t bad as the narrator, either. Well, I guess it just goes to show that sometimes professional voice actors are more effective than big name Hollywood talent.
Possibly Winnie the Pooh’s biggest strength is its visuals. As you have noticed from the trailer and photos posted in this review, this is a traditionally animated (hand-drawn) film. Yes, no lame post-production 3D! Yes, no computer generated images! Like its 30+ year old predecessor, Winnie the Pooh is an unadulterated hand-drawn animated flick, and a gorgeous one at that. The animation here probably isn’t as great as the sequences in The Princess and the Frog, but it’s beautiful nonetheless. 21st century production values help breathe new life into these characters that have existed for decades, and the characters are definitely more expressive than they were in the past. Yet, the look and aesthetics of Winnie the Pooh are undeniable nostalgic, which a definite plus. The music is also notably great, with a bright and cheerful score from Henry Jackman, who also scored X-Men: First Class. Zooey Deschanel also recorded an excellent arrangement of the opening theme from the original film, and she also recorded a great piece that’s played during the ending credits. Music and animation were important aspects of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and that’s reflected well in this contemporary Pooh film.
Nostalgia: it’s something that affects the minds of all of us that have grown up with films likeThe Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disney Animation Studios tried to evoke such feelings with their 51st animated film, and for the most part, they succeeded. I wish that the plot could have been more meaningful like its predecessor, the runtime could have been extended by maybe 10 minutes (even though it’s fitting as it is), and a couple of voice actors simply make me cringe. Even so, the good of Winnie the Pooh thankfully outweighs the bad. With sharp writing, a good story, beautiful 2D animation, generally good voice acting, and great music, Winnie the Pooh sure has a sense of Disney magic that many Disney films have lacked in recent years. Also, how can you compare with all of these awesome characters that we have grown up with? Standing next to Bolt, The Princess and the Frog, and most importantly Tangled, Winnie the Pooh is another testament to the fact that Disney Animation Studios has finally returned to form. Nonetheless, it’s not quite the film that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was. Does this new Pooh film stand equally with its spiritual predecessor? Perhaps not, but is it worth it returning to the Hundred Acre Wood, though? Oh yes.
NOTE: There is an animated short that precedes the actual film which is called The Ballad of Nessie. Also produced by Disney Animation Studios, it is how Disney interprets the origins of how a friendly Nessie ended up in Loch Ness. She is a loveable character, and the short has a gorgeous art style with great animated sequences. In short (no pun intended), The Ballad of Nessie is a cute little short film that in contrast has an overbearing theme.