Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Disney's Winnie the Pooh

Disney went from spending over $250 million on Tangled and taking a huge risk, to spending $30 million on a movie they've basically made before based on a tried and true character. Disney's gamble may have paid off for Tangled, but it's obvious that they decided to go for a safe and cheap bet for their next film, Winnie the Pooh. Yes, one of the few sequels in the Disney canon and also one of the few package films. I say package film because it is a collection of stories instead of one linear tale. Production began on Winnie the Pooh way back in 2009 with John Lasseter announcing that they wanted to make a movie that would "transcend generations." Honestly, unless they made a movie with Mickey and the gang in it, Winnie the Pooh is probably the only character that they could use to technically do that. Winnie the Pooh has been around since the late twenties and Disney started making movies about the honey obsessed bear in 1966. Winnie the Pooh has also had TV shows on during the 80's like Welcome to Pooh Corner, and The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I personally grew up watching the latter. They've even had Winnie the Pooh movies and TV shows in the 2000's. For being such an old character, Pooh bear is heavily ingrained in our culture. He may not be as popular as some other cartoon characters, Disney or not, but you can't go to a kid's store without seeing some sort of Winnie the Pooh merchandise. There's just something about that bear.   My point is that Lasseter knew what he was talking about when he wanted a movie that could transcend generations. Every generation that is alive has had a connection with this bear. This movie could easily be seen by anyone, no matter what age they are, which is what makes this movie such a safe bet.

My sister already went through the history of Winnie the Pooh in her post about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, so I won't go into that again. So, unfortunately there is not much to say about this movie. It consists of the stories, "In Which Eeyore loses a tail, and Pooh finds one,""In which Piglet meets a Heffalump," and "In which Rabbit has a busy day and we learn what Christopher Robin does in the mornings." Hmmmm...don't know about that last one. All the stories are taken from A.A. Milne's books, so don't think these are some new-fangled stories Disney pulled out of nowhere. What's also nice is that they brought Burny Mattinson on board, a veteran Disney animator who played a big role in the 1974 film, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too.

OK, I'm going to tackle the voices now, and it's going to be a little more in depth than usual. Winnie the Pooh's characters have gone through many voice actors throughout the years, but there aren't even that many left from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which disappoints me. Jim Cummings has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger since 1988, though he shared voicing Tigger with Paul Winchell until 1999. These are the only characters that are voiced by the same person as the TV series I grew up with. Piglet is voiced by Travis Oates. Oates took over for John Fiedler when he died in 2005. Fiedler had done all of Piglet's voice work before that point. That makes me very sad. Oates doesn't do a bad job, he actually sounds a lot like Fielder. Tom Kenny, AKA the voice of Spongebob Squarepants voices Rabbit. The last voice of Rabbit, Ken Samson isn't dead or anything, Disney just decided not to have him do the voice. Which is terrible. I'm sorry, I love Tom Kenny and all, he's an excellent voice talent, but he isn't rabbit. Rabbit is far too goofy in this movie. Rabbit is supposed to be uptight and the "straight man" in the comic duo that he and Pooh encompass. Kenny gets his voice somewhat close to Samson's, but not enough for me, or anyone from my generation to know that it's someone completely different.

Along the same vein is Craig Ferguson as the voice of Owl. Andre Stojka has been Owl's voice since the eighties, but apparently Disney wanted someone fresher. Ferguson, like Oates, actually pulls off the voice very well, so it's not as noticeable that it's a different voice actor. Bud Luckey, who has mostly done voices for Pixar films, voices Eeyore, another substitute for a voice actor from the eighties series. Am I missing something? Was there some dispute between all the original cast members and Disney? Kanga and Christopher Robin have been voiced by a ton of people throughout the past three decades, so I don't care as much about the changes. Plus, Christopher Robin's voice sort of has to keep getting new voice actors. And nobody cares about Roo, so there. Acting as narrator to the stories is none other than John Cleese. This is awesome, and I don't need to say anything more about it. I'm sorry if it seems like I was a little nitpicky with the voice actor thing, but I loved The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as a child, and to see most of the cast still around but not asked to voice their characters seems like blasphemy to me personally. I know it's stupid, but I like voice actors to stay the same if possible. I stopped watching Dexter's Lab because they changed the voice actor for Dexter. Couldn't stand it. Anyway, that's my rant, and I'm sticking to it. Hey...wait a minute...where the heck is Gopher!?

Winnie the Pooh opened on July 15th 2011 and went on to gross a total of $33 million, only a little more than they spent to make the movie. It probably would have done better had it not been competing with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Oh well. I'm sure Disney didn't expect it to be a blockbuster hit. I'm sure they were happy it at least made them a little money. How did they make the movie so cheap in the first place? The fact that it's only an hour long helps. It was originally going to have five stories, but it was shortened to three. The length, incidentally, was about the only thing critics had a problem with. Critics praised the animation, the voicing, and the script. Critics also pointed out the ability for children and adults to enjoy the movie, which is a rare feat nowadays. I'm telling you, the generation gap is getting further and further apart. Critics likened it to a love letter to the old days of Disney animation and storytelling, and I have to agree with them. It's hand-drawn, animated by a veteran of past Winnie the Pooh films, and involves original stories from A.A. Milne. It's the complete antithesis to the current way of doing things. No original materials, all CGI, and all gimmicks like 3D. All this movie is is good storytelling, great characters, and great animation. And if that's not old fashioned Disney, then I don't know what is.

Well, that wraps up our look at the Disney Animated Canon. It took us a little bit longer than we thought, but we finally made it. Don't worry, we'll revisit Disney plenty of times and make a new post about new canon movies. Otherwise, it's on to other topics in the world of cinema. If there is something you want my sister or I to write about, drop us a comment or e-mail us. Thanks for reading!


  1. As a Disney fan since I watched "The Aristocats" at the premiere in Brazil, I've followed your posts and read they with delight and pleasure. Congratulations!

  2. Thank you very much! Glad you like the blog!