“Oh, bother” Pooh? Not at all.
(Winnie the Pooh, Stephen J Anderson & Don Hall, USA, 2011, 73 mins)
Writer A.A Milne has created something of a legend; a set of animated friends that without each other fail to portray the importance of companionship and personality. The Tigger Movie (2000), Piglet’s Big Movie (2003), and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005) are sure to be discarded once audiences, including the adult lovers of our honey eating friend, witness what is an example of fantastic, traditional animation with the aid of E.H Shepard’s drawings, within such a tense generation of 3D special effects and high standards in our complex technological age.
As Winnie the Pooh begins, the camera pans a real-life bedroom, presumably Christopher Robin’s, which has in it a bear and other stuffed animals on which the character of Pooh and his friends were based on, taking the audience back to the very roots of this popular franchise. The film features stories from the books which had not been adapted to cinematic form, and narrator to the film, John Cleese, brings with him an essence of Britishness that overwhelms the dominance of Disney’s Americanisation. His voice more often than not interrupts the narrative rather than urge it forward, but nevertheless he interacts with the characters, talking to them directly and offering useful instructions to point them towards the correct prop within the scene, which is one element that stresses the target audience of the film, which is without doubt young children.
Despite at times feeling like an evening workout with CBeebies, Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends also touch, follow and completely destroy the typography of the book, which takes up the entirety of the screen, but also aids them in difficult situations, such as when Pooh uses the words from the book to create a ladder to escape a hole. The pages become animated and combine classic literature with a superb, modernised and vibrant spectacle. Eeyore, voiced by Bud Luckey, brings his gloomy characteristics to the screen which for adults may bring some comedy to the table, as his pessimistic viewpoint combined with Pooh’s sarcasm (“A simple “Hello” would do, thank you very much”), clumsiness, and loyalty combine sweetly to allow for a few chuckles.
The narrative is simple; Eeyore has lost his tail and all his old friends in Hundred Acre Wood compete to find an appropriate replacement. However, this isn’t a film about Eeyore alone, as soon after the hunt begins, Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) leaves a note which becomes misinterpreted by wise old Owl (Craig Ferguson), who thinks Christopher has been kidnapped by a creature called the “Backson”. It seems like a lot to squash into seventy minutes, but the timing is perfect, and children are not likely to become distracted from the entertainment, particularly with these two little narratives to contend with, and the film is pleasant enough in its inoffensive content to satisfy even the weariest of adults.
Zooey Deschanel’s sophisticated but playful voice delicately sings the ending soundtrack which was originally sung by the Sherman Brothers, which is utterly suited and admittedly, made me want to sing along once again. The film itself is also full of new songs, encouraging children to sing and clap along or on the other hand can grate on some older viewers. They include one about the horrifying “Backson” creature, which is accompanied with chalk images of the characters looking scared and acting out the scenario in which they meet the dreaded animal, adding a creative touch amongst the graphics. Another short sequence begins as Pooh’s rumbling tum overcomes him and he begins to dream in honey, besotted by it so much the world around him transforms into a golden, sticky wonderland as he sings “Everything is Honey” dressed as a cute little bee. For Pooh to think that everything in life is a bother (finding Eeyore’s tail, a lack of honey, getting stuck in a hole) is insanity, this film is a complete delight, enough to satisfy a sweet tooth for a brief reminiscence.