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According to a scientific study that I totally didn't just make up, there are three things in this world that are impossible to hate: pizza, Mr. T., and Winnie the Pooh. Countless children are exposed to A.A. Milne's famous stuffed bear as part of their induction into Walt Disney animation, with the character's charm lasting long into their adult years. The franchise has had its missteps (I wasn't very fond of its 2011 theatrical revival), but its simple lessons and serene visuals have helped it persevere longer than a lot of flash-in-the-pan kiddie properties. That said, the powers that be have been known to mine Pooh Bear for the occasional quick buck from time to time, which is how we end up with titles like Springtime with Roo. First released in 2004, this holiday-themed outing has now been reissued in a "Hippity Hoppity Roo" Blu-ray edition that does an incredible amount of justice to the festive colors that permeate every frame. As a story, it's strictly for kids, although its pleasantness will likely do them more good than the cynical fare that studios like to hoist upon them.

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Easter has arrived, and the Hundred Acre Wood's residents couldn't be more excited. Little Roo (voice of Jimmy Bennett) is particularly thrilled at the prospect of going on a good, old-fashioned egg hunt, but Rabbit (voice of Ken Sansom) has other plans. Much to the chagrin of Roo, Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), and company, Rabbit has cancelled Easter and declared the day be set aside for spring cleaning instead. The other animals of the forest are confused as to their friend's sudden hatred for the holiday, unaware that the answer is more complex than they think. Rabbit has his reasons for not being all that into the Easter spirit, but overcoming them means having to learn how to put others first and not only think of himself.

Not that many of the cartoons that preceded it were all that deep to begin with, but Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo comes off as especially transparent. We're basically talking about something with a preschool demographic in mind, what with its peppy, disposable soundtrack and main lesson all but underlined in red ink for the viewer. There's nothing wrong with this, especially when the aforementioned moral is, "Don't be a selfish jerk." But in guiding Rabbit towards the realization that thinking about his pals once in a while is a smart choice, the movie jumps through a number of unnecessarily-complicated hoops that only highlight how its creators blew up a half-hour's worth of material to twice that length. For one, it burns through about three separate protagonists, promising at the outset to focus on Roo, before moving onto Tigger (also voiced by Cummings) and his efforts to bring back Easter, until we conclude with Rabbit encountering the error of his ways in a "Christmas Carol"-inspired climax that comes out of nowhere. Even with the multiple perspectives, the same ground gets covered over and over, so although the little ones won't be able to tell the difference (especially with a new song to distract them at every turn), the parents who'll inevitably be forced to watch it with them will yearn for the days when Winnie the Pooh only came in thirty-minute chunks.

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Speaking as a franchise fan who was there with bells on when Tigger, Piglet, and Heffalumps got their own designated movies during the 2000s, Springtime with Roo is a mixed bag. Despite characters like Christopher Robin and Owl completely missing in action, most of the gang is all here and portrayed by the same actors who've helped endear them to audiences for the past decade or so. No matter how old I grow, it'll always be a pleasure to hear Cummings effortlessly channel Sterling Holloway as Pooh, David Ogden Stiers provide soothing narration, and the late John Fiedler prove himself to be the definitive Piglet for all time. With so much of the story revolving around this particular critter, Sansom's Rabbit is awarded more screen time than usual, although it's not under the best of circumstances here. The movie leans really heavily on Rabbit's control freak nature for conflict, so much so that when Roo doodles pictures of the two being all buddy-buddy, you wonder how anyone could come to see him in a remotely friendly light. The act gets old fast and remains firmly entrenched in your craw, spoiling the mood whenever the flick is concerned with setting kids on the straight and narrow.

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Video
Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Even though the feature itself didn't grab my interest, I have to admit that the picture here is flat-out gorgeous. Every frame is filled with Eastery hues (lots of blues, purples, and yellows), giving the film a bright, vibrant, confectionary look. The colors are all bold without being overpowering, and the more traditional storybook backgrounds hold up just as well. Some of Disney's less prestigious releases from the past ten or so years tended to look a bit on the cheap side ( Atlantis: Milo's Return and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, especially), but even if it didn't have the budget of a tentpole picture, Springtime with Roo is still a hefty dose of eye candy.

Audio
The film comes with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks (and accompanying subtitles). Captions are also included for the additional French, Spanish, and Russian audio tracks (all Dolby Digital). The sound obviously doesn't stand out as prominently as the movie's visuals do, but I don't have any complaints to share. The music isn't overpoweringly whimsical, the actors' voices come through clearly, and there's no trouble picking up on the multitude of silly audio effects.

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Extras
Get Up and Dance! (1:58), a brief little music video featuring kids dancing to one of Rabbit's anal-retentive anthems.

Also included is a cardboard mobile kids can cut out and assemble.

Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Overall
As beautiful as its transfer may be, it's tough to give Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo a recommendation. If your home happens to be filled with ankle biters for the time being, having it around to pop in as something easygoing to unwind with after a stressful day wouldn't be out of the question. Springtime with Roo is perfectly innocuous, but one's chances of forming any sentimental attachment to it are slim at best.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.


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