Harkening back to the glory days of Disney, in the pre-3D animation era where hand-drawn artistry was revered above all else, comes Winnie the Pooh, a wonderful piece of nostalgic filmmaking that will delight the whole family. The first of many smart choices on Disney’s part came when they decided to maintain the style and motif of the excellent The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh, keeping with the beautiful animation, live-action introduction to the film, and plot-driving narration that made the original so unique and enjoyable.
I made sure to mention the animation in this film in the introduction, and that’s because the sheer quality absolutely blew me away. I had no idea that in the age of computers and 3D that studios still had the desire to create such classic-looking movies. Winnie the Pooh appears to have stepped out of the 70s, with silky-smooth artwork popping to life over beautiful hand-drawn backdrops.
There is, of course, the odd CG scene inserted here and there that rather obviously sticks out when juxtaposed with the more traditional designs, but overall, the movie maintains a very consistent style that is more than easy on the eyes. I believe we can thank John Lasseter, who heads up Pixar and more recently Disney’s animation team, for bringing back the old style for both this film and The Princess and the Frog.
First and foremost, the film truly maintains that its focus on a younger audience. However, I can tell you that for anyone who grew up with The Many Adventures, this film is a joy to watch for its incredibly familiar look and feel. Not only that, but it’s also very funny. I was howling with a friend as we watched this not long ago, and we found nearly every joke was a hit despite their very G-rated nature.
Winnie the Pooh doesn’t overstay it’s welcome one bit, either – it comes in at a slight 63 minutes, just shy of the 74 minutes of its predecessor. While perhaps I would have enjoyed a more in-depth look at the Hundred Acre Wood, I was content with what we were given and I would be remiss if I thought the plot could have been stretched to cover a longer period of time. On the plus side, its brevity emphasizes how eminently re-watchable this film is.
There are some negative aspects to the film, of course. The cast is sorely missing the voice talents of Junius Matthews as Rabbit, which is a true shame as his character was quite entertaining in The Many Adventures. Jim Cummings makes admirable Pooh and Tigger as he has in the past with The Tigger Movie, making for a barely noticeable change from the original film. Despite my minor qualms about the change in cast, John Cleese as the narrator was an inspired choice and Craig Ferguson gives an excellent edge to the morally-questionable Owl.
And of course, it is unfortunate that the film lacks the brilliant songwriting talents of Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote the songs for The Many Adventures, The Tigger Movie, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, and many others. One of the best aspects of any of those films was their incredible soundtracks, and to lose such an endearing facet of the film was clearly a missed opportunity on the part of Diney. Nevertheless, the songs are still fun and numerous, if not terribly memorable.
I can safely say that Winnie the Pooh is as much for fans of The Many Adventures as it is for younger newcomers. You won’t find any real PG nod-wink jokes as you might in, say, a Pixar film, but there is something so charming about the sheer innocence of Winnie the Pooh. If you have any love of the golden days of animation, or if you’re looking for a good film to sit down and watch with your family, this is it.
Verdict: Movie Win