Winnie the Pooh (2011) (US - BD)
Gabe has an incredibly quick, brand new adventure in the Hundred Acre Wood...
One morning Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) awakens to find no honey in his home, much to the chagrin of his rumbly tummy. While fastidiously searching for the sweet stuff Pooh comes across Eeyore (Jim Cummings), and notices his friend’s tail is missing. Ignoring his tummy for the time being Pooh calls in the assistance of Owl (Craig Ferguson), Rabbit (Tom Kenny), Piglet (Travis Oates), Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez), Roo (Wyatt Hall), Tigger (also Cummings) and Christopher Robin (Jack Boutler). A contest is hatched to find Eeyore a new tail, and the reward for best tail is a full pot of honey. Later, Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred Acre Wood, and leaves a note reading "Gon Out Bizy Back Soon". Owl misreads the note, and announces that the ‘Backson’, a ruthless and mischievous monster that is conveniently blamed for all of Pooh’s friend’s problems, has kidnapped Christopher Robin. The team unites in an effort to capture the Backson, and rescue their friend.
A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories were a long-standing childhood favourite of mine. The second book in the series, The House on Pooh Corner, got regular rotation before bedtime, and I cherished the man-in-suit/puppet television series Welcome to Pooh Corner every time the Disney channel (which used to be a premium channel) ran a free preview weekend. Years later, during my college years, while I was working as a child care professional I often found myself reading from the book series for a group of little cross-legged moppets, who stared up at me through Bambi eyes, wrapped in Milne’s world despite the antiquated language styles. Then I was given enough time to forget about Pooh and his Hundred Acre Wood buddies. I had assumed the modern Disney machine had driven the property into the ground, but was shocked at how well The Tigger Movie had captured the characters, and even added unexpected emotional weight to the usual situation. I then realized that perhaps the little yellow bear wasn’t in the worst of hands. The studio’s theatrical follow-ups, Piglet's Big Movie and Pooh's Heffalump Movie, weren’t as touching or as memorable, but at least the people holding the reigns were still up for attempting new things with franchise. This latest film in the series (which opened against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, so nobody saw it) is short and sweet, with a special emphasis on the short -– not including the end credits it’s only about 54 minutes long. It’s not an outstanding film, but it’s true to the source, and breezily entertaining.
The team of writers behind the project (seriously, there are six people credited with a screenplay that couldn’t have been more than 70 pages) does a good job of subtly modernizing the characters while remaining faithful to the basic premise and style of both Milne’s stories and Disney’s original shorts. The plotline sticks reasonably close to three stories from Winnie-the-Pooh and House on Pooh Corner, and organically blends them together, rather than taking an anthology approach. The rather obvious moral of the story is then disguised in the charm. The modernity is mostly found in the comedic pacing, and but the overall comedic feel and practice is authentically Pooh. In true series tradition the characters readily break the fourth wall (they step onto the words of the book, use the letters as tools, and speak to the narrator), argue through puns, and react to even the most dire situation with placid, sarcastic wit. The dialogue is delightfully dry, and assuming you’re familiar with the other movies and stories, the character-based comedy lands firmly with both feet. As a fan of Eeyore, I found the film especially satisfying. The writers look past the character’s usual doldrums, and reveal him as more of a quiet observer drawn into playtime because he’s too polite and downtrodden to object. The hand-drawn animation isn’t particularly dynamic, or even intricately detailed, but its calming nature fits the established pattern for the series, and the illustrative background style is pretty gorgeous.
Winnie the Pooh is a traditional, hand-animated movie for the most part (it has a live action opening). It benefits from some digital enhancement, especially in terms of colouring, but is largely a very old fashion production. I’m especially fond of the painted backgrounds (which I acknowledge might have been created on a computer), which mixes soft, watercolor blends with hard ink. In 1080p these elements are well separated without any sharpening or compression artefacts, and the delicate colour changes are crisp thanks to the HD detail levels. The animated characters stand out pretty vividly against these more subdued, and textured backgrounds, and are filled out with more buoyant colours. The high detail levels reveal minor ‘errors’ in the pencil and ink work, usually in the form of sketchy, inconsistent lines, but this is the appeal of the style, and actually a plus in the transfer’s favour. Pooh’s honey hallucination is the transfer’s high point through the sheer vibrancy of the golden hues, and the smooth, subtle gradations. I noticed some very minor digital noise on some of the blends in the darkest shots, and a smidge of edge enhancement here and there, but otherwise there’s very little to complain about.
The bulk of this underwhelming DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is devoted to the dialogue and the musical soundtrack. There are very few sound effects throughout the mix aside from the most obvious on screen elements. The lack of ambience is a bit of a bummer, but too much aggression in the channels wouldn’t be exactly true to the series’ style. In the place of effects ambience is low energy score, which occasionally brasses up for an occasional mock scare. Directional effects pertain almost exclusively to dialogue as characters movie off screen (though Tigger’s bounce follows him). Otherwise the rear and stereo channels open up with the music, which is often choral in nature thanks to the ensemble cast approach. The surprisingly catchy songs feature full orchestrations, which fill the channels rather nicely as well, and the instruments are all effectively warm and crisp. The LFE is given its most consistent boost from Eeyore’s low voice, but some of Tigger’s bounces, and Pooh’s pratfalls provide a bit of punch as well.
Extras begin with ‘Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too’ (8:30, HD), a sweet behind the scenes look at the making of the film, and the history of Pooh as a character, including interviews with producer Peter Del Vecho, directors Don Hall and Stephen Anderson, author/historian Christopher Fitch, and story supervisor/Pooh guru Burny Mattinson. It’s all narrated by John Cleese, and covers Milne’s books, Disney’s original adaptations, and the character’s stylistic changes. This is followed by five deleted/extended scenes, each featuring directors’ introductions (15:10, HD). The disc also features two shorts, ‘The Ballad of Nessie’ (5:30, HD) and ‘Pooh’s Balloon’ (2:50, HD), a sing-along mode, a song selection menu, an ad/how-to for a Pooh-based nursery, and Disney trailers.
Winnie the Pooh is really too short, and I’m not sure I’ll remember it very much in the coming years, but it’s sweet and entertaining. It successfully entertains both the little ones and the adults without even threatening to step beyond its G-rating, or acting against the nature of the longstanding series. This collection, which is the DVD with a bonus Blu-ray set, not to be confused with the Blu-ray with a bonus DVD set (I have no idea why Disney releases some of its films this way), features a solid but unassuming HD transfer, and a matching DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The extras are minor, but include some fun deleted/extended scenes, and the charming ‘The Ballad of Nessie’ short. Make sure you stay tuned through the credits for one final joke.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
All ages admitted
Release Date: 18th October 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DVS 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too, Sing Along with the Movie, 5 Deleted Scenes with Directors' Commentary, The Ballad of Nessie, Pooh's Baloon, Trailers, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Don Hall, Stephen J. Anderson
Cast: Don Hall, A.A. Milne, Brian Kesinger, Chris Ure, Clio Chiang
Genre: Adventure, Animation and Comedy
Length: 63 minutes
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