Thursday, April 9, 2015


RELEASE DATE: Friday 15th April 2011

Disney very rarely does legitimate sequels. Although Disney off-shoot companies had created new movies based on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh from 1977, Disney Animation Studios had never returned to the Pooh stories themselves. After the hand-drawn department had been reopened to produce The Princess and the Frog in 2009, it was decided that they would next create a brand new Pooh film, based on three of A.A. Milne's Hundred-Acre Wood stories.

Sadly, the film was only given a very limited release (in Australia it skipped the cinema altogether) and made a tiny amount at the box office. (To give an idea of how few people saw Winnie The Pooh, consider that Home On The Range - notoriously one of Disney's biggest flops - made $104. Pooh made $44 million...)

One of the major reasons that Treasure Planet flopped was because Disney made the very stupid decision to release it alongside Harry Potter. Sadly, the exact same thing happened with Pooh, which was released into cinemas at the same time as the final Potter film, The Deathly Hallows Part Two. (sigh) I fully understand that Potter and Pooh are catering to two very different markets, but most people would not venture out to the cinemas more than once at a time, and nothing was ever going to beat the enormous Potter finale.

It was apparently marketed terribly (I really can't tell, because as I said, it skipped the cinema here) which shows that the Disney marketing division hardly had any faith in it to begin with. Unfortunately this once again put the nail on the hand-drawn coffin at Disney. There have been no 2D animated features since this one. There is an undeniable whiff of conspiracy here. It's like these films were being set up to fail spectacularly, just so that there could be an excuse to get rid of 2D animation.

Winnie The Pooh is currently sitting on a 90% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, which is an extraordinarily high score. Critics loved it. We can only hope that in the future it will find adoring audiences through home video avenues, because it deserves them.

In a nod to the original film, this one begins once again in a live-action bedroom with a glimpse at the real-life Pooh bear.

As the story begins, Pooh wakes up with a rumbly tumbly, and needs something to eat. The only problem is, he has no available food.

As he searches, he comes across grumpy Eeyore who has somehow lost his tail. Along with Owl and Christopher Robin, Pooh goes on a quest to find where Eeyore's tail has disappeared to.

All of the residents of the Hundred-Acre Wood come up with different tails that might replace the one that Eeyore lost. None of them are quite right though...

The next day, Pooh finds a note on Christopher Robin's door but he can't read it so he asks Owl to interpret. Owl completely misunderstands the letter and informs everybody that Christopher Robin has been abducted by a vicious creature called the "Backson." While terrified of this monster, everybody bands together to catch it and rescue Christopher Robin!

While Pooh and Piglet set up a trap for the Backson, Tigger recruits Eeyore to be "Tigger Two."

Pooh, still desperately hungry, begins to hallucinate that he is in a world made entirely of honey.

Falling for his own trap, Pooh falls right into the pit meant for the Backson. Before long almost all of the Hundred-Acre Wood residents are in there with him, with Piglet their only help of getting out. Unfortunately, Piglet cannot knot.

Piglet sets off on his own to find some help. He is terrified when he comes across Tigger, dressed as the Backson.

With everybody trapped down the pit, it is up to Pooh to use what very little brain he has and find a way out. All of a sudden Christopher Robin appears and tells everyone that his note said "back soon."

A bit later, as Pooh is visiting Owl, he spots a very familiar-looking tail attached to the doorbell. Even though he is being offered free honey, Pooh does the right thing and returns the tail to its rightful owner.

The reward for this selfless act is the biggest pot of honey Pooh has ever seen!

There are two things in particular that this film does perfectly: Firstly, it manages to mimic the tone, humour and character of the 1977 original to a tee. Secondly, it also manages to be its own movie, tell its own stories and offer new surprises and funny moments.
It is only a little movie. At only 62 minutes in length, it is a full 12 minutes shorter than the original film, and the second-shortest movie in the entire Disney Animated series. (Only Saludos Amigos is shorter)

Luckily, it is 62 minutes of pure entertainment. It's wonderful to be back in the oh-so-familiar Hundred-Acre Woods with these beloved characters, all so quirky and making big deals about absolutely nothing. It's a shame that the new voices of Owl, Kanga and particularly Christopher Robin sound nothing like their counterparts in the original film, but all of the other characters sound authentic enough.

Unlike the 1977 movie which was really three short movies tied together, this one blends the plot points into one combined story. Eeyore missing his tail, the Backson kidnapping Christopher Robin and Pooh's quest to find some honey are all interwoven throughout the movie, giving it a more coherent sense of plot.

I find the title of the film odd. By simply calling it "Winnie The Pooh," it gives the impression that it's a reboot or a re-release, and it's neither. The first film was called "The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh." So surely the sequel should have been called "The FURTHER Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh" or something similar? It adds an element of confusion when discussing the movie, and probably made potential audiences look upon it as something old that they'd already seen.

This is a film that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. It is innocent, sweet, quirky and never ceases to put a smile on my face.

The creators of Winnie The Pooh had one main artistic ambition: to completely capture the style and tone of the original 1977 movie. They succeeded admirably. Apart from the fact that the characters look "cleaner" thanks to the 21st century computer scanning and colouring systems, everything looks like it was made by the same artists who created the series' style in the 70s.

You can just feel the joy that the animators had in drawing these classic characters. The backgrounds have the exact same pencilly-storybook style as the original.

It really is a wonderful homage and a child could easily watch both movies together and not be able to tell the difference.

Again, the creators were trying very hard to mimic the musical style of "Many Adventures." Since the Sherman Brothers were well and truly retired (and Bob would sadly pass away a year after this film's release) it fell to husband-and-wife team Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez to create some new songs to fit into the Pooh world. (After this project, Robert and Kristen would go on to write songs for some little movie based on The Snow Queen...)

Luckily, the Sherman Brothers' "Winnie The Pooh" theme song makes a comeback, this time sung by Zooey Deschanel. "The Tummy Song," "A Very Important Thing To Do," "The Backson Song," "It's Gonna Be Great" and "Everything Is Honey" are all cute and adorable songs that could easily fit into the Sherman Brothers catalogue.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I think it's clearly evident how much the creators of this film love the original! Winnie The Pooh is a wonderful movie. There are a number of reasons why it's gone largely unnoticed since its release in 2011. It should never have gone up against the final Harry Potter movie. That was a stupid decision. I wonder if its generic title made audiences think it was a simple re-release. The fact that it looks very familiar probably made people feel like they'd already seen it. At any rate, for people who grew up with the characters, the new film offers some wonderful new stories and moments of comedy that will warm even the coldest heart.

PASCAL: I love how the words off the book are fully integrated into the movie.

IRVYNE: Yeah, very much in the style of the original.

PASCAL: Christopher Robin sounds different though, and I don't like it.

IRVYNE: It sounds to me like he has the wrong accent.

PASCAL: He does. And he doesn't look like the old Christopher Robin either.

MALEFICENT: That's all right.

PASCAL: No. It's not all right.

WENDY: Yeah, it looks like they changed that character's design.

MALEFICENT: That doesn't bother me.

HAKU: He's grown up a bit, because he's going to school now.

MALEFICENT: Yeah, at the end of the first movie he said goodbye to everyone because he had to start going to school. But obviously now he comes home from time to time so that he can play with his friends.

WENDY: Owl's voice has changed too. I thought it was Rowan Atkinson, but I was wrong. It's Craig Ferguson.

HAKU: It feels like this movie has a bit more slapstick than the last one. Like how Owl zips off screen suddenly. It's funny, but it doesn't really fit.
IRVYNE: Yeah, I can see how moments like that can feel a bit "modern." Since everything in the Hundred-Acre Wood is supposed to be classic and timeless.
MALEFICENT: So far, the criticisms have been based on comparing this film to the first one. But as a stand-alone movie for kids who might never have seen the original before...

IRVYNE: This might be the first Pooh they've ever seen! Tee-hee!

MALEFICENT: It's a brilliant movie on its own merits. It's entertaining. It's got lots of quick little songs.

PASCAL: I don't like the songs that much. They annoy me a little bit.

MALEFICENT: You grinch. I think the songs are great!

IRVYNE: There are some clever lyrics in there.

MALEFICENT: I love how Pooh just muddles up all of his conversations.

MERRYWEATHER: Why doesn't Gopher get a mention anymore?

WENDY: Because he's not a real character.

MALEFICENT: He was invented for the first movie. That's why he always says, "I'm not in the book!"

IRVYNE: This is a great film for Eeyore at least. He gets some hilarious scenes in this.

PASCAL: I love Eeyore.

WENDY: He's my favourite. He's always been my favourite.

HAKU: Did you notice there's no shading on the characters at all?

IRVYNE: Yeah, it's made to look like book illustrations. That probably helped a lot to keep production costs down as well!... Which is a good thing, because the movie made almost no money!

MALEFICENT: I think it's completely unfair that this was released at the same time as The Deathly Hallows. Disney should re-release it all over again.

IRVYNE: I don't think that's at all likely. The big-wigs used this film once again as evidence that no one wants to see hand-drawn animation anymore.

MALEFICENT: That makes me angry.

WENDY: We should start a petition!

IRVYNE: So as of this moment in 2014 (2015 by the time the blog entry is published) there are no hand-drawn movies on the horizon for Disney. This is it. The end of the artform that Walt himself brought into popular culture in 1923. So long, old friend.

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