You have to wonder what went through the minds of Disney executives when they learned that July 15, the day they had selected for the release of Winnie the Pooh, would be the very same day the final movie in the epic Harry Potter series would be released. Oh bother!
It is unfortunate, to say the least, because this Pooh deserves its own rabid fan following. Winnie the Pooh is the first big-screen Pooh feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios in 35 years (the intermediate Pooh releases came from Disney’s straight-to-DVD unit).
Directed by Don Hall and Stephen Anderson and executive produced by John Lasseter, Winnie the Pooh returns to both its Disney origins (it looks and feels much like Disney’s 1966 Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree) and literary origins (the story comes from, and the look is inspired by, the original A.A. Milne books).
The characters in this Pooh literally jump off the page, sometimes taking with them both letters and whole words. This was a device used so charmingly in Disney’s original Pooh films. In these early films, the characters interacted, not just with the text, but with the narrator, as well—a constant reminder that these were characters from a book that have come to life. More recent Pooh films abandoned these techniques opting for a more “realistic” approach. In Winnie the Pooh, both devices return.
The look of the film is classic Milne—the color palette is muted and recreates the watercolor feel of E.H. Shepard’s original drawings and the layout drawings were done in pencil by hand.
Not surprisingly, the adventure begins with Pooh’s appetite. Pooh wakes up famished and with no “hunny” in sight. As he sets out to find breakfast, Pooh is sidetracked by the gang’s search for a replacement for Eeyore’s inexplicably missing tail. Later that same day (it was a very busy day for Pooh and his friends), Pooh finds a note from Christopher Robin that says, “Gone out. Busy. Back soon.” Owl mistakenly thinks Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by an evil creature named “Backson” and everyone goes on a mission to save Christopher Robin from his imaginary captor.
John Cleese provides the voice of the Narrator, a role so elegantly played by Sebastian Cabot in the original Pooh films (who can forget Cabot’s distinctive pronunciation of nar-RA-tor?). Disney veteran Jim Cummings voices both Pooh and Tigger; Eeyore is brought to life by Bud Luckey.
So, who will win the battle between our favorite “bear of very little brain” and “the boy who lived?” If the prize is a pot of “hunny,” Harry doesn’t stand a chance.
Contributed by: John Marchese (NDD#172) John is the DDL Media Relations Blogger.