Mania Review: Winnie the Pooh -

Mania Grade: A

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  • Starring the Voices of: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Travis Oates, and Bud Lackey
  • Written by: Stephen J. Anderson, Clio Chiang, Don Dougherty, Don Hall, and Brian Kesinger
  • Directed by: Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall
  • Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
  • Rating: G
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Winnie the Pooh

Still a silly old bear...

By Rob Vaux     July 14, 2011

Winnie the Pooh
© Walt Disney Pictures/Robert Trate

 Winnie the Pooh will never be cool. And ironically, that actually makes him one of the coolest heroes to grace our movie screens this summer. He’s not pursuing fleeting relevance by trying to come across as hip. He doesn’t squeeze himself into the demands of a studio that wants all things for all audiences. And while the unstoppable Disney marketing machine has certainly slapped his face on all manner of gouge-ables, none of that crass commercialism touches this latest cinematic foray. The House of Mouse has learned its lesson from mediocre cash-ins like Pooh’s Heffalump Movie and returned A.A. Milne’s beloved stuffed bear to his roots. They couldn’t have made a wiser choice.

In fact, this new Winnie the Pooh actually outshines all the earlier Disney renditions of the character, including the shorts from the 1960s and the indifferent 1977 “feature” that simply strung several of them together. Those films appeared during Disney’s slow descent, with Walt dead and the animation department succumbing to corporate indifference. The 2011 version has a stalwart backer in executive producer John Lasseter, who respects both the history of the character and his origins in Milne’s prose. Directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall deliver a gorgeous version of Hundred Acre Wood, rendered in beautiful 2D with an emphasis on hand-drawn style (even when the computer subtly lends a hand) that easily outshines the indifferent animation of previous Pooh films. 

The story combines several gentle threads into a neat final package, as Pooh’s (voiced by Jim Cummings) eternal quest for honey is interrupted by Eeyore’s (voiced by Bud Lackey) lost tail and a monster known as the Backson apparently kidnaps Christopher Robin. The usual cast of characters helps him out, from the hyperactive Tigger (also Cummings) to know-nothing know-it-all Owl (voiced by Craig Ferguson). Unlike earlier films, the interwoven plots maintain some organic cohesion – aided by their origins in the Milne stories – while reminding us how charming the characters are. Anderson and Hall use their share of tried-and-true shticks – such as Pooh and his friends interacting with the words on the nearby printed page – but still find interesting things to do with them, as well as adding some new techniques to give the film a sense of identity.

The end results create a Pooh Bear who is, perhaps, definitive (at least as far as his Disney manifestation goes). The vocal work takes some getting used to, since it comes from new performers, but they approach their duties with gusto and admirably deliver the core of the lovable cast of characters. Zooey Deschanel contributes songs both old and new with more mixed success (none of them are bad, just a little routine), but nothing here disrupts the fine mixture of nostalgia and charm upon which such an endeavor absolutely depends.

It also doesn’t overstay its welcome, which some might regard as problematic. Winne the Pooh runs a scant 73 minutes, plus the credits and a fun little short (done in classic 1950s Disney style) about the creation of Loch Ness.  With material this slight and fluffy, undue padding would be a disastrous mistake; as it stands, the film feels just the right length. The film does its job and gets out before it has a chance to become tiresome. Older children will likely find it dull (they have Harry Potter to entertain them), but the very young – as well as their knowing parents – should be enthralled by the kind and colorful adventures onscreen.

And that’s really kind of the point. While Disney tries to break into the teen market with the Marvel superheroes, or lend old favorites like Mickey an appalling sheen of “hipness,” Pooh Bear was always meant for a younger crowd. Winnie the Pooh speak to them in a loving voice, with enough imagination to inspire them and nothing too scary to keep them up nights. That it does so with almost no noticeable flaws is quietly miraculous. Amid the sturm und drang of a summer in full bellow, its softness, gentility and serenity feel instantly relaxing. Every now and then, we need the fuzzy hand of a good friend who knows when to stop and smell the honey. What else are Pooh Bears for? 


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MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 7/14/2011 2:35:07 PM

Hell yeah, Winnie the Pooh has always been my favorite. It seems like each character represents all of the different personality types that surround us. I have always related to Eeyore but I also have a Mr.Hyde like Tigger side to me, too. I also have a weird memory of being five or six and being at Disneyworld and kicking and punching Pooh's back because he seemed to be ignoring me and he turned around and I could feel the guy inside glaring at me through the mask. I hauled ass.

shac2846 7/14/2011 2:42:08 PM

 With Lasseter helping run the show on the production side of Disney I bet a lot of their output over the next few years is going to kick serious ass, whether their family films or not. Anyway, wife is a big fan and the reviews have been really good so I'm gonna' check it out.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium, that's some funny shit.

Wiseguy 7/14/2011 3:06:38 PM

Do folk even know this film is coming out. I knew but I've seen very few commercials. I hope it does well personally

LOL MJE that is funny.

peak37pt 7/14/2011 4:41:48 PM

 The reviews this movie is getting is a pleasent surpirse. I can't wait to see it!

AtreyuPrimus 7/14/2011 8:40:04 PM

I was sold the minute I saw that it was going to have the look and feel of the original Disney Pooh Bear movie that I grew up with and loved. Screw Harry Potter, I'm going to see this this weekend.

Tevii 7/15/2011 7:39:00 AM

ok... I have never seen a single commercial for this.  Never heard anything about it anywhere. Is Disney not promoting this at all?

jfdavis 7/15/2011 8:27:17 AM

I've seen maybe two commercials for it on TV.  Neither went a long way in describing what the plot was but I suppose little kids don't care...

violator14 7/15/2011 10:04:42 AM

LOL at Mr. JBE. i Kinda had a similar experience with the Tweety Granny at Magic Mt. I was taking a pic and i kinda grabbed her fuzzy eye glasses to see if they came off, and she literally gave me a back hand to the face!! She was lucky she was an old granny, cuz i was pretty pissed!

lusiphur 7/15/2011 11:03:37 AM

 I've seen a couple of commericals for this, but I don't think we're the demographic they're aiming for.  So I'm sure in some corner of the TV spectrum, there was a flood of advertising for this.  I'm not sure that's a great idea.  Plucking on the nostalgic heartstrings of 30-50 year olds would have probably brought in a good pile of cash.  From what I've seen, it looks wonderful.

Wiseguy 7/15/2011 12:14:43 PM

You disappoint me violator, I'd expect more of a Cartman response from you. Like when he grounded up that kids parents and made chilli out of them

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