Unlike many animated films today, Winnie the Pooh seems to have been made for one reason: to bring back the familiar characters in some of their most classic tales with no new gimmicks. It’s really quite refreshing and reminded me of the older cartoons I had not even thought of since I was a child. This is by far the best of the more recent films that help to introduce a new generation of little ones to the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood. You can feel that the intentions here are pure.
The story is molded from a few of the old adventures, including finding Eeyore a new tail, attempting to save Christopher Robin from an imaginary foe and Pooh’s never ending search to put honey in his rumbly-tumbly. There is even a scene giving Piglet his chance for bravery, referencing back to another lovable tale. Though Owl’s fabrication of the Backson feels a little forced, children won’t notice and adults will have more to smile about to bother wagging a finger.
To old purists who clearly remember The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Disney made in the late 1970’s, you may need a moment to adjust to some new voices. I grew a little concerned by how Owl’s aged voice of wisdom was traded in to sound like a younger know-it-all, but was happy to see how all the characters remained in tact. However, I completely approve of the more age appropriate voice for Christopher Robin and the charm John Cleese brings as the Narrator. His interactions with the inquisitive Pooh are just as wonderful as Cabot’s.
In an age where children’s toys are cloned plastic that appear on their clothing, juice cups and sugar-coated cereals, Christopher Robin’s room is a missed part of a simpler past. The film begins with live-action shots of his belongings, toys and bedding, all handmade. His stuffed Pooh and friends are not the kind you’ll find in piles at the mall, but look stitched and stuffed by hand and worn with love. The adorable still shots during the end credits rival Toy Story’s Andy for best playtime.
The feeling we get within C.R.’s room stays within us throughout the animated story. Things are not fast paced. Colors are rich but not too bright. Jokes are simple and sweet. This is especially wonderful in an age where children’s films often plagued by 3-D effects and resort to fart jokes or pop culture references that will quickly age a film. In the Hundred Acre Wood, those things simply don’t exist. That makes it a much more magical place to be.
On this blog, I don’t dabble much in pre-season Oscar predictions. Honestly, I was just moved to write this review out of pure joy. I have no idea where Winnie the Pooh stands in the running for Best Animated Feature. While Pixar usually holds the front-runner, Cars 2 was not one of their best films, but fun nonetheless. Happy Feet 2 will be in theaters next month, with another dazzling display of cute dancing penguins, but I expect another nauseating plot and too many one-liners voiced by Robin Williams. I do believe there is a chance that the Academy could approve this sweet, hand-drawn resurrection of beloved characters, perfectly nestled in their setting, where they can interact with their storybook’s text. And if not, I still think it’s just wonderful.
“Silly old bear.”