Starring Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Tom Kenny and John Cleese
Every now and then a film will come along and surprise you, it can come out of nowhere, from the most unlikely of people and it can put the biggest smile on your face. Disney’s latest film adaptation of Winnie the Pooh always had a little interest for me, the trailer was nicely put together and the posters were imaginative and strong, but it was Winnie the Pooh, a franchise that Disney seemed to milk every couple of years to bring in the very young crowd, it couldn’t be that good, could it? Unlike recent Pooh films like Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, this stays far closer in tone to the 1977 animated anthology The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and more importantly, to the original stories by A.A. Milne. The film follows the adventures of Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends as they try to find a new tail for Eeyore (Bud Luckey) and as they search for Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) after he has vanished.
Disney are in a really good pace at the moment, before this they have found great success with The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, both have been met with critical success and audiences have flocked to see them, so now after two films that rely on the old idea of the Disney princess maybe it isn’t such a surprise that they have returned to Winnie the Pooh for their next film. Where this film succeeds is in how nice it is, that is where it’s real charm lies, there is no offensive material, the jokes are aimed at children but the wit is so sharp and sweet that adults will be won over by it. It is just so pleasant to be visited by these characters that we all know and love once more; the wonderful script, which brings up memories of childhood innocence and wonder, helps this.
The film is a modest 73 minutes long (a running time boosted by a short played at the beginning of the film and a very long credits sequence) and because of this, the film never gives us a chance to get bored and we feel wholly satisfied by the time the film is over, barely even noticing the quick length of the picture. The director Stephen J. Anderson previously worked on Meet the Robinsons, a film that relied on the charm and eccentricities of its many characters, it’s major downfall was there were too many characters to focus on and the viewer would soon get lost trying to figure out who was who. Here Anderson is given 9 wonderful characters to focus on, he clearly loves each one and has given them all equal focus. Voice actors such as Jim Cummings and Tom Kenny bring real fun to the project, putting in wonderful performances that bring across great energy and passion for the character (especially Cummings who voices both Pooh and Tigger). Narrator John Cleese brings a touch of class to the film, interacting with the characters whilst narrating their stories and keeping the strong British heritage alive.
The film does feel episodic due to it being based on several different A.A. Milne stories, but it will put a smile on your face from start to finish and the kids are sure to be entertained by the adventures and morals given throughout the film. In an Easter season where the other two children’s films are Hop and Rio, this is easily the best, offering fun for both adults and children. It knows what it is, a children’s film that is there to entertain and teach, it does exactly that in a remarkable way, with it’s strong direction, talented actors, wonderful music from Zooey Deschanel and gorgeous animation (2D all the way), this will probably not succeed with audiences like Disney’s last two picture due to lack of marketing and crowded release schedules but hopefully it will be remembered in the tradition of a Disney Classic. It is the biggest surprise of the year and for now, it sits at the best of the year list for me.