Winnie the Pooh is Walt Disney’s second most recognizable character (behind Mickey Mouse), but he hasn’t had much of a big screen presence since the 1970′s. Though there were attempts to take him to the big screen since then (Piglet had his own movie), Disney has gone back to basics of the A.A. Milne stories, and made a feature length return-to-form feature for the character. The big question is: will this also play for parents? The answer is yes. Find out more below.
- Director: Don Hall, Stephen Anderson
- Screenplay: Stephen Anderson (story), Clio Chiang (story), Don Dougherty (story), Don Hall (story), Brian Kesinger (story), Nicole Mitchell (story), Jeremy Spears (story) , A.A. Milne (“Winnie the Pooh” works), Ernest Shepard (“Winnie the Pooh” works), Paul Briggs (additional story material), Chris Ure (additional story material)
- Actors: Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Travis Oates, Tom Kenny
- Original Music by: Henry Jackman
- Cinematography by: Julio Macat
Eeyore (Luckey) has lost his tail, and everyone goes out to find it, with the reward being a honey pot. A number of replacements are tried, but Eeyore only has one tail. Christopher Robin leaves the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood alone, and they interpret his note (“back soon”) as a sign that he’s been kidnapped by the Backson, a creature Owl (Ferguson) creates out of whole cloth. This sends the group into a panic as they try to protect themselves and capture this mysterious creature.
- The Adult Factor: Though the film doesn’t play with pop culture references (outside of one nod to Raiders of the Lost Ark) like so many modern animated films, Winnie the Pooh was made by adults who weren’t just thinking of this being simply something to plop in front of children. There’s craft in the animation and storytelling here. Parents – who may be forced to watch this countless times with their children – won’t have to check out. The film is simplistic by design and never winks at the audience, but the characters often interact with the narrator and the text of the story itself, so it – thankfully – is endearing and sweet, but never mind numbing. It also knows the length this sort of storytelling can handle, so it’s a quick feature, but that’s for the best.
- Endearing: These characters have survived for decades because they are so appealing and so innocent. The makers respect the characters, and if you like Eeyore or Tigger or Piglet or Winnie, they’re the characters you’ve known and loved. The makers do play a little more with some of the supporting characters (this version’s Rabbit and Owl are changed a bit), but never in a way that offends, and only Craig Ferguson stands out – mostly because of his brogue – as someone who borders on recognizable of the main cast, while John Cleese sets the right tone as the narrator. As such, if you loved these characters before, they are the characters you remembered, and all get to shine.
- Ensemble: Often these films pick one character to spotlight, but here everyone gets their moments. Though Winnie is the default lead, everyone else is sprinkled through the story, so you get some Tigger or Piglet, but the film is never overwhelmed by any of the characters. The film leaves the viewer with a sense that you might want to spend more time with each, but in the best way.
- Running Time: Though there’s a clever short included beforehand (“The Ballad of Nessie“), where most animated films of recent times try to at least get to 90 minutes or so, this runs a very brief 69 minutes. That works for the film, but in terms of bang for the buck, that’s barely feature length. The budget-minded parent may prefer to simply buy the film when it comes out and get all the replay factor that comes with ownership over taking kids to a movie that won’t occupy them long enough to go grocery shopping.
A film that can play like gangbusters to the under ten set, it’s nice to know that the makers didn’t resort to poop jokes and the like, or try to modernize a series that is best set in a world of imagination. Though slight, it’s easily one of the best animated films of the year, and one of the best films for children under the age of ten in a good long while. It’s a winning movie that draws on the best of its characters, and though familiar, not so familiar to be underwhelming. It’s nearly pure charm from frame one to end.
Winnie the Pooh hits theaters July 15.