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.
If ABC was glitter and NBC was substance, Fox tried to impress the critics with both as it trotted out two days worth of very fancy food and a line-up heavy on new shows for the fall season. Gail Berman, the new Fox Network president, swore that the crash and burn of several predecessors didn't faze her at all. But the death of sex-and-angst dramas "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Party of Five" may have, so Fox is banking on two dysfunctional family sitcoms, "Titus" and "Malcolm in the Middle."
Also returning next season is "X-Files," with less Duchovny and more Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2"), who will be joining the cast as FBI Inspector John Doggett. Other forays into the paranormal include "Freaky Links," starring Ethan Embry ("Can't Hardly Wait") and "Night Visions," a "Twilight Zone"-style anthology series.
"Visions" co-creators Dan Angel and Billy Brown were on hand to tell scary stories at a lunch complete with flickering votives and mini-grave centerpieces. Later, "Dark Angel" producers introduced 19-year-old star Jessica Alba while co-creator James Cameron answered questions via satellite from a "secret location" (where he's probably honeymooning with new wife Suzy Amis).
Another cast of sexy young things appears in Darren Star's "The $treet," which promises to be a PG-13, male "Sex and the City" (another Star production) with three bonafide movie stars -- Tom Everett Scott ("That Thing You Do"), Jennifer Connelly ("Waking the Dead") and Adam Goldberg ("Saving Private Ryan"). "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelly also introduced his new ensemble drama "Boston Public," about improbably attractive school teachers.
Reporters grilled John Goodman and producers Bonnie and Terry Turner about changes in their new untitled show and wondered whether Goodman would bring "gay characteristics" to his character, a divorced gay dad who returns to Beantown after living in L.A.
Then there was a presentation on "The Tick," wherein Patrick Warburton (Elaine's boyfriend Puddy on "Seinfeld") plays the live-action version of the big blue animated hero.
Fox's only foray into reality TV this year is "American High," a show that follows real students in a middle-class Chicago suburb. One of the students, Morgan Moss, vied to become the next Puck (of "The Real World" renown), declaring: "I am a new breed of human being."
Moss and fellow students Robby Nathan and Sarah Mages looked appropriately Hollywood at Fox's starry closing bash, held at Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills. Bart and Homer didn't show, but Rashida Jones (Quincy's daughter), Calista Flockhart, Goodman, Alba and other network stars (and stars-to-be) sake-bombed their way through the night's celebration.