The Reel Deal


A Reel Deal Film Review

Film Insight by Tyler Malone

August 2011

Reel Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I am a sucker for classic 2D handdrawn animation, and I have a special place in my heart for A. A. Milne’s characters from Hundred Acre Woods (and their Disney incarnations), but I think even if I were to set those two things aside, I’d still be able to call Winnie the Pooh the best animated film of the year (so far).  Undeniably, this is in part due to a lack of great animated films this year, but it also should be attributed to the fact that this new Winnie the Pooh is everything it should have been. It updates the characters and the stories slightly, but remains true to the spirit of both A. A. Milne’s books and the original Disney shorts. The plot of the film is directly taken from three of the Milne stories.

While it definitely tries to appeal to contemporary children on some level, it doesn’t do what most animated films do these days, which is play directly to the ADD-addled, videogame-obsessed, lowest-common-denominator-joke-loving masses. This Winnie the Pooh still plays to an audience similar to the original shorts: an audience of literate children who like books, and like words, and like stories, and like to use their imagination–the kind of children who have their own teddy bears that they create stories about in their heads. That is the film’s greatest feat: that, while not feeling dated, it still feels anchored by its own literariness. As in the original Disney shorts, the characters interact with both the pages of the book and with the voice-over of the narrator (the brilliant John Cleese in this new version).

There has been some debate as to whether the Pooh conceit of having the characters interact with the book itself has been a little overdone and, perhaps, should have been excised. I would have been very disappointed–and damn near inconsolable–had they taken out this part of the Disney element of the stories, because it was such a part of what made the Disney Pooh so incredibly loveable.

The plot, which as I’ve said was constructed from three original Milne stories, is pretty paper-thin, with Pooh and crew mostly just off in search of things: honey, Eeyore’s tail, Christopher Robin and an illusive beast named the Backson. What is so loveable about the characters that populate the Hundred Acre Woods is not necessarily the situations they get themselves into, but the actual characters themselves. Though I’ve seen the old Disney shorts multiple times, and read the Milne stories almost as much, I don’t remember much of their plot, or could recount many of the actual adventures they embarked upon, but the personalities of each character have remained engrained in my memory for my entire adult life. Seeing these characters again, performing their same personalities and adhering to their adorable idiosyncrasies was a true treat. There’s a song performed in this film called “Everything Is Honey,” and that is a perfect description of the film, because everything about this film is just the kind of sweet sustenance that’ll satisfy that rumbly in your childhood-soul’s tumbly. Children who haven’t seen the old classic shorts or read the stories will find much to love in this, so it isn’t necessary to be already attached to the characters as I am (and as countless millions are), but I will admit that my love of the movie was heightened by my feelings of nostalgia.

And also my hope for a return to those bygone years when Disney animation was seemingly infallible. In recent years, Disney has been doing very little right (outside of their Pixar brand), but here is a step in the right direction. It seems I’m not alone in this thinking: Winnie The Pooh has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. Could this do what The Princess and the Frog tried and failed to do (i.e. get Disney back into churning out mostly-handdrawn 2D classics year after year)? I doubt it, but let a boy dream…

Winnie The Pooh is an animated film directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall, and based on the classic stories by A. A. Milne. It stars the voices of Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson and John Cleese. In the film, Eyeore has lost his tail, and Winnie the Pooh and his friends hold a contest to get him a new one.

Reel Deal Review Written by Tyler Malone

Thumbnail Picture Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

Thumbnail Design by Jillian Mercado

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