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Monday, July 30, 2012

Disneyear: Winnie the Pooh (2011)

We come to the last film in Disneyear: Winnie the Pooh. I'm sure a lot of you are reading this thinking, "Didn't you already review this film?" Well, you're thinking of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the film you all remember growing up with. This is a very recent released film, sort of an official sequel to the 1977 film. I find it surprising that despite it being released last year, no one I talk too has seen, let alone even heard of this film! Then I remembered why: in America, this was released on the exact same weekend as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, so this poor film got little to no recognition at all. I wonder why on Earth this film wasn't released in April like it was in the U.K.? But thankfully for those that actually saw it, it got a lot of positive marks and it did make it's $30 million budget back, making it a modest success. I did catch this one lazy summer day and was pleasantly pleased with what I saw. It brought back a lot of nostalgia, for me at least, as it does capture a lot of things that made the first film endearing. Is it as great?  Well, let's return to the Hundred Acre Wood for the final film this year.

One morning, Pooh wakes up to greet the day. But he has no honey to eat, so he goes around looking for some. He bumps into Eeyore, who's tail is missing. Owl passes by and suggests some kind of reward for a new tail. The whole wood agrees that whoever finds Eeyore a new tail is rewarded with a pot of honey. Despite their best efforts, none of them really seem to work. So Pooh goes back on his search for honey as he finds a note on Christopher Robin's door. He has Owl read it for him since poor Pooh is a bear with little brain. Owl reads it and concludes that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a monster called the Backson. I won't dare ruin how they came to that conclusion because honestly, it's really funny! So the gang sets out to trap the Backson in a pit by making a tral of things to destroy. Meanwhile, Tigger sees Eeyore couldn't catch up with the others and decides to make him an honorary Tigger. That doesn't seem to work either and Pooh manages to fall into the trap by thinking an empty honey pot lure was full. But everyone gets stuck in the pit too except for Tigger and Piglet. They eventually get out and see Christopher Robin is okay. Everything is cleared up and Pooh once again is on the search for food. He goes to Owl's place to find that Eeyore's real tail was mistaken as a bell rope and he returns it to Eeyore to win the honey pot prize. Pooh eats to his content and the story ends.

So does this film hold up as a sequel? Well, it has many elements from the first movie, such as the fourth wall jokes and a nice atmosphere and pace that allows the characters to be themselves and let them tell the story. From what I understand, this is the first Pooh film in a while to use A.A. Milne's original stories again, which is always nice. The only thing I wish was that there were more of the stories. What made the first film so great was that there were so many stories tied into it. This film only has two. That's very odd. The film's very short. It's only an hour long and when it was over, I was wanting more. I guess that's not always a bad thing, but this film could have been longer.


Thankfully, the characters are more or less the same. There's some familiar voices here as well as a few new voices too. John Cleese is the narrator and he's just perfect for it. He's dignified, but knows how to add humor to the narration, much like how Sebastian Cabot did in the first film. Jim Cummings returns as Pooh and Tigger, having taken over the roles for well over a decade, and he as usual does a great job. Travis Oates does a surprisingly good Piglet, one of the songwriters of the film (Kristina Anderson-Lopez) voices Kanga here. That's kind of cool. Tom Kenny was an odd choice for Rabbit, but he did pretty well too. Animator Bud Luckey plays Eeyore to a tee. The oddest choice for me was Craig Ferguson as Owl. He does a good job, but they changed his character around. This guy was just obsessed with being right all the time. The original Owl was like that too, but not nearly as ego-maniacal as he is here. I suppose it's not a bad change, but wasn't Rabbit already sort of that character? Being right all the time? Oh well.

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The songs are really, really good songs! They were so good I thought maybe the Sherman Brothers came back to write them. But it's in reality a new team with the same amount of talent and spirit. Fun fact here: the writers for the songs also wrote the music for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon! I tip my hat to these folks for recreating that musical spirit of the first film.

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The animation is really good here. Maybe a little too good. I noticed that the team redesigned a lot of the characters. Pooh has a slimmer body, Kanga, Roo, and Piglet have different shaped heads, and they even gave Christopher Robin those big Disney eyes. Real ones. Notable animators to watch for are Mark Henn (Pooh), Andreas Dejas (Tigger), Eric Goldberg (Rabbit, of all characters!), Bruce W. Smith (Kanga, Roo, Piglet), and Dale Baer (Owl).

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Oh, and this scene cracks me up!

Winnie the Pooh is a lot like getting a bouquet of flowers: it's familiar, but you still get a nice, warm feeling from it. It has a nice atmosphere, good pacing, good animation, great characters, great songs, funny scenes, and the stories are told well. I only wish there was more stories in the film. It's Winnie the Pooh after all! You could have a ton of fun recreating these stories. But I still enjoyed it. It really felt like I was watching the original film as a kid again. It's not great, but good. If you're a fan of Winnie the Pooh or just want to see some great animation, I'd say check it out sometime.


And folks, this is the end of Disneyear. Thank you all so much for reading, subscribing, and commenting with me throughout the year. I'm sure all of you have your own opinions of these movies, so get out there and share your thoughts with the world as I did here. As I did finish ahead of schedule, I think I'll save all the Pixar films for either August or October to review. And when Wreck-it Ralph is released, I'll watch it and share my thoughts here. Until then, thanks so much and take care.

So long for now, folks! :)

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