The A. A. Milne estate was very reluctant to deal out animation rights on WINNIE THE POOH to Disney, or to anyone. And this spanking new mediocrity certainly shows why. The Disney POOH shorts from the ‘60s & ‘70s managed to be both gentle & respectful, teasing out playful visual conceits by locating the famous ‘100 acre woods’ right on the pages and even inside the print of the books. That idea is superficially continued here, but you can see by checking out the snippet from Wolfgang Reitherman’s original animated adaptation*, seen here with a new soundtrack as a three-minute ‘Mini-Adventure’ extra, that the remarkable feeling for graphite line & airy watercolor wash has been smoothed over and super-saturated for the new product line. To say nothing of a dumbed-down storyline suitable as babysitting fodder. No wonder the feature, less its hefty credit sequence, runs under an hour. Jim Cummings does double-duty recreating the voices of Sterling Holloway’s Pooh & Paul Winchell’s Tigger, but only Craig Ferguson brings anything fresh to the party as Owl. Especially in a half-reel fandango about a mythical beast called a ‘Backson’ which swaps out the original book illustrations (a springboard for the old team, a straitjacket for the new) to work up a variation on the old ‘Pink Elephants’ numbo from DUMBO/’41, which just happens to be the all-time favorite cartoon feature of Disney/Pixar animation head John Lassiter.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: So many perennials and so many dramatizations from a single time & place: THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS; those teeny Beatrix Potter books, POOH, PETER PAN, DOCTOR DOLITTLE, ALICE IN WONDERLAND. What a era for Children’s Literature the turn-of-the-last-century was in Britain. Here’s a picture of the original stuffed toys, given to the New York Public Library by the original Christopher Robin. Long held @ the Donnell Branch, they’re currently in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, at least while the Donnell is under (de)construction.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: *The Reitherman shorts have been collected under the title THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH/’77.