At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Earlier this year, I got the chance to go across the pond to see the locations that inspired author A.A. Milne's creation of one of pop-culture's most beloved bears: Winnie the Pooh. I traveled deep into the grassy region that is the English Countryside to walk over Pooh Bridge, take a photo next to Christopher Robin's tree and chat with the men who brought these iconic characters back to life in Disney's Winnie the Pooh, in theaters this Friday July 15.
Check out the videos below for exclusive interviews with directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall, as well as animators Mark Henn and Andreas Deja.
We are mere weeks away from the triumphant return of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne’s beloved bear of very little brain, to the big screen. Under a no less assured hand than that of animation demigod John Lasseter, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and the rest of Milne’s raggedy crew of anthropomorphic stuffed animals are poised to embark upon their first cinematic adventure in over 35 years on July 15, 2011, in glorious, soul-affirming 2D.
In addition to shunning the trend toward in-your-face 3D and glossy, super-detailed computer animation, Winnie the Pooh also rejects the prevailing practice of cramming the voice cast with as much big-name, easily marketable celebrity talent as possible. The only recognizable faces in the film’s cast are the venerable John Cleese, who narrates the film, and talk-show host Craig Ferguson, who lends his voice to Owl, the Hundred Acre Wood’s resident sage. (And I suppose you could count Zooey Deschanel, whose dulcet pipes are all over the film's soundtrack, if you really want to.)
Ferguson can be heard on this cute little clip that Disney was gracious enough to send us. Entitled “Who Are You in Winnie the Pooh?” it’s a sort of personality test, though we swear it has nothing to do with the Church of Scientology. Hopefully. Take it by clicking here and see if that creeping suspicion you've harbored all these years, that you're not really a flesh-and-blood human but actually an animated, British-accented owl, is correct:
Television and film producer Stephen Slesinger obtained the rights to the beloved children's character from author A.A. Milne in 1930, but they were transferred to Disney in 1961.
In September (09), a judge ruled in Disney's favour after an 18-year, $2 billion legal battle over the rights - but Slesinger's family now insist they are still owed a large sum in royalties.
Slesinger family spokesman Lonnie Soury says, "Though the decision established that Disney is the licensee, we are still owed hundreds of millions of dollars. We don't know exactly what that figure is because Disney accounting is Hollywood accounting."
But Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman insists, "We've always acknowledged that some of the rights we obtained are royalty bearing and continue to be so."