John Lasseter may be credited with having directed Cars 2 but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t paying attention to his other many endeavors. Even with only an executive producer credit it’s painfully obvious he was taking closer care of another project outside of Pixar Animation Studios. While Walt Disney Animation Studios’ last classically animated feature was the well received, blockbuster-lacking The Princess and the Frog, I felt it was a great throwback to the studios’ heyday starting back with The Little Mermaid. Now with a heavy dose of nostalgia and an arsenal of talented animators it’s literally back to the drawing board for Winnie the Pooh.
Bringing the characters to a whole new generation visiting A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood shouldn’t be too difficult a task for directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall. Disney has been continually churning out merchandising, TV shows, and direct-to-video offerings for years. Its biggest obstacle may be presented in the questionable decision to release the “silly old bear” up against one wizarding wizard of Hogwarts. Inexplicable is just about the only word to describe this. Maybe they’re hoping that if the final 3-D installment of the Potter series is sold out they can catch a ticket to Pooh instead. And at a scant 69 minutes they surely should.
Winnie the Pooh begins as it should with a quick live action bedroom scan of one Christopher Robin (voiced by Jack Boulter). Our Narrator (John Cleese) explains that the boy has an overactive imagination, likes to collect things large and small, but that his favorite toys happen to be his stuffed animals. Yes, everyone is back and accounted for. Rabbit (voiced by Tom Kenny), Owl (voiced by Craig Ferguson), Kanga (voiced by Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and Roo (voiced by Wyatt Dean Hall), Piglet (voiced by Travis Oates), and of course Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too (both voiced by Jim Cummings). But the star this time just may be Eeyore (voiced by Bud Luckey).
While Eeyore may not exactly be the main attraction, the new story of “Winnie the Pooh Has a Very Important Thing to Do,” features Eeyore’s tael… err, tail, as the MacGuffin. He has lost his tail and the grand prize of a pot of hunny is up for grabs but the gang has even bigger things to worry about as a “Backson” is on the loose and may have taken their beloved Christopher Robin. It’s all a misunderstanding of course but it’s enough to set everyone off on a series of misadventures to capture the Backson set to tickle the funny bone and warm the heart of course. It’s everything you’d expect from a Disney/Pixar collaboration and is more than enough to make up for the lengthy but still highly enjoyable Cars 2 in spite of that being Pixar’s own first total blunder.
Having just watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh just last week some of the voices are a little jarring. But after looking over the film’s IMDB page it appears that it’s only for those of us with the most fondness for the original voices of Sterling Holloway (Pooh) and Paul Winchell (Tigger) will pay any attention. Although, Jim Cummings makes for a far better Pooh than Tigger, and I must say that Bud Luckey makes for a splendid Eeyore. Stuffed to the gills with beautiful throwback animation and chock full of sure to be repeated ad nauseam songs courtesy Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (“She & Him”) as well as new originals sung by the cast.
At one point Pooh says that he wishes a paragraph had been a bit longer, and the same goes for the whole film. It flies by far too quickly, even with the opening short, The Ballad of Nessie about the Loch Ness Monster getting the boot from her pond and off in search of a new home. It’s so nice to see everyone back up on the big screen, jumping from page to page and hanging on every word (sometimes literally). So while everyone else is off to see the wizard, you don’t have to visit your thinking place to know that a trip to the Hundred Acre Wood is an even better place to be this weekend.