Winnie The Pooh

In an era of hyperactive, overly verbal 3-D animated entertainment, I hope there is still room for a film as sweet and gentle as Winnie the Pooh. At the screening I attended it seemed like the young adults in the audience were enjoying it even more than the kids, reliving their childhood memories of the “stubby little cubby” and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Cartoon fans will also rejoice in a film that celebrates the art of classical Disney-style animation as this one does. It represents what may be a “last hurrah” for this generation’s leading artists, including Dale Baer, Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg, Randy Haycock, Mark Henn, and Bruce W. Smith, who comprise the team of supervising animators on this film. Story supervisor Burny Mattinson’s credits go back farther than anyone’s on this team. He even directed Mickey Mouse’s comeback vehicle—

—Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall may be younger but they’ve been steeped in the Disney tradition and steered their film on the right path.

Winnie the Pooh generates smiles and chuckles from start to finish with its good-natured, episodic story of Pooh and friends going on a wild-goose chase to find a supposedly missing Christopher Robin. John Cleese provides the voice of the narrator, and taking a cue from Disney’s first Pooh movies, the format of the film is that of a storybook in which the characters occasionally interact with the typeface on the pages. Several engaging new songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, along with a featured piece by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (sung by Deschanel) complement the Sherman Brothers’ title tune and “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers.”

None of the original voice actors from the first Pooh cartoons are still alive, but their replacements (like Jim Cummings, who inherited the title role from veteran Sterling Holloway many years ago) do a fine job. Craig Ferguson is especially lively as Owl, who’s a bit more foolish than I remember the character being in earlier stories. But that’s a quibble.

Winnie the Pooh, which runs a mere 68 minutes (oh, joy!) is preceded by a delightful short-subject called The Ballad of Nessie, created by the same duo that brought us How to Hook Up Your Home Theater several years ago, Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton. Rendered in a vintage
or “retro” graphic style reminiscent of late-1950s Disney cartoons and narrated by the wonderful Billy Connolly, it offers a fanciful fable about the origin of the Loch Ness Monster. What a charmer!

Incidentally, if you do take your kids to see Winnie the Pooh, try to stay through the closing credits. Not only are there animated gags throughout featuring the main characters: there is a coda to the film itself that’s quite amusing.

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June 2024