Winnie the Pooh
Director: Stephen Anderson, Don Hall
Starring: Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, John Cleese, Tom Kenny
The deluge of computer-generated animation has made the "traditional", hand-drawn format all but extinct. As studios clog their hard drives with greener-looking grass and ever more lifelike-looking humans, it is quite ironic that the man who started the craze, the Toy Story director and now the creative head of Disney, John Lasseter, has made it his mission for the company to still stay faithful to the old ways. Thus we have Winnie the Pooh, an animated update of the classic AA Milne books, produced in the same style as the beloved Winnie the Pooh Disney cartoons of the 1960s and 1970s.
The film takes place in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Winnie The Pooh (voiced by Cummings) hurls himself unwittingly into a series of misadventures, starting with a quest to help his friend Eeyore (Luckey) by finding his tail. A misread note leads Pooh and his friends to believe that his best friend, Christopher Robin, has been eaten by a ferocious creature, and so it's up to them to trap the beast and rescue him. Meanwhile, Tigger (Cummings) attempts to console Eeyore by trying to turn him into "another Tigger", with mixed results.
The film is split between animated action and interaction with the storybook, narrated by John Cleese. Similar to the previous Disney interpretations, the story is brought to life through a mixture of hand-drawn and computer animation. This combining of old and new (or rather old assisted by new) leads to an incredibly nostalgic affectionate telling of the stories that will warm even the hardest of hearts. The same simple humour and light-hearted storytelling will delight younger members of the audience, although adults without pre-existing affection for the characters may not share that love.
Great care has obviously been taken to keep the look and feel of the film consistent, both in the way it is presented and through the voice actors' performances, which acknowledge the vocal styles of the great Paul Winchell and Sterling Holloway (the original voices of Tigger and Pooh). This strength may also be a weakness, as although Disney aficionados will delight in this, lovers of the books will be disappointed and will no doubt point out that, despite the film's claims, it is more faithful to the cartoons than to the source material, although it won't win over Milne purists historically critical of Disney's version of Pooh.
As childlike and as innocent as the audience it hopes to attract, Winnie the Pooh is firmly of the animated old school. Some might miss the knowing adult references so prevalent in modern-day animation, but then their absence might be just what's so wonderful about it. In a world where studio movies try to be all things to all men, Winnie the Pooh is a children's film aimed squarely at children, with no desire to do anything other than make you smile. And who can argue with that?