Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review - Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh and the rest of Christopher Robin's friends from the Hundred Acre Wood set out on series of new adventures.

Good friends are hard to come by. Especially friends that will be there for you through it all. For Christopher Robin, he has a number of friends matching exactly that description and thankfully Disney has brought them back together as if no time has passed at all. Once again families are treated to some well spent time with our old friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. 

Right off the bat "Winnie the Pooh" calls back to the original 1977 "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" inserting the audience into the pages of Pooh's stories as if we're not only reading the books but inside them. This is something that the three previous Winnie the Pooh spin-off movies in the 2000's sadly abandoned. The return is certainly welcomed and immediately set me at ease that this new 'Pooh' adventure was on the right path.

The new 'Pooh' adventure calls on nostalgia of the iconic character and his friends in a couple of ways. The first example has already been covered by re-interjecting the idea that we are inside the pages of Pooh's adventures. The second is a return to gorgeous hand-drawn animation. Not only that but a really heart-warming palette that has been absent from Winnie the Pooh movies since the 70's. The previous films used a much more vibrant palette I'd describe as electric while "Winnie the Pooh" goes back to more natural colors. These colors really add a ton of depth and emotion to the Hundred Acre Wood and its inhabitants. Back to the hand-drawn animation, wow I've missed this from Disney. I know computers are easier and all the rage, but this style of Disney animation is what I grew up with and it swelled me up inside with a joyous emotional response. I had a smile on my face from ear-to-ear and so did my kids.

Disney calling back to familiarity works but this latest installment of Pooh will work just as well on new recruits. Wisely Disney doesn't waste anytime introducing characters either, they just dive right in as if we'd never left. You could think this may lose audiences that are not familiar but it is not likely. Take my 4 year-old daughter for example, she really only knows Winnie the Pooh from the stuffed dolls her older brothers had. She'd not seen the original 1977 movie or any of the others, maybe a snippet here or there but overall this was her first experience and she ate it up just like the fuzzy old bear would his honey. As for my older son's who've had exposure to Pooh, they too gobbled it up. One thing Disney has always had is a keen sense of establishing a solid story for both parents and their children and once again they illustrate their knack in doing so. "Winnie the Pooh" is a simple tale about friends going the extra mile for each other. Regardless of whether the audience knows these characters backstory or not by the end, they will be just as connected as the longtime fans.

As for the voice cast, nearly all of the Hundred Acre Wood characters are invisible outside of Craig Ferguson voicing Owl. Owl's character remains full of laughs for all ages however nearly every time Ferguson would speak I would think, that's Craig Ferguson and it would deter the experience just an tiny bit. In some animated movies filmmakers are indeed going for that, but with Winnie the Pooh, that should not be the case. This complaint beckons back to what the audience already knows and I'm sure younger audiences, not as familiar with Pooh as adults, are not going to be taken out of the animated film thinking, is that the late night talk show host Craig Ferguson? Enough about Ferguson, Jim Cummings (who has been voicing Pooh and Tigger for many years) is excellent as always is in both characters. I absolutely adore the willy nilly silly old bear and Cummings' voice on top of Disney's fantastic animation is a absolutely fabulous match. While she's not necessarily in the voice cast, she does provide her voice, Zooey Deschanel delivers a number of adorable and full of energy songs within "Winnie the Pooh." Deschanel does three songs including the original theme for Winnie the Pooh and her little voice matches the classic theme in a way that will certainly get new audiences to sing along just as much as the old song did.

Overall "Winnie the Pooh" is a must see for families this summer. It calls back to classic hand-drawn Disney animation and delivers the goods. It is fun for all ages plus it houses a number of good moral's (the biggest being friendship) for children to latch on to. Finally, it was a blessing to see Disney re-visit the chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff bear once more but what made it so special was the attention they clearly put into doing it right and giving it that classic Disney feel.