Thursday 21 April 2011

Bear necessities: "Winnie the Pooh"

Compared to the way Disney have trashed some of their other legacies (The Second Jungle Book, anyone?), the company's animators have treated Winnie the Pooh rather well: sure, you could carp at the Americanisation of AA Milne, but the features produced over the past decade or so have the dozy, hyperglycemic gentleness of the title character down to a tee. Following starring vehicles for Tigger and Piglet (still nothing with Eeyore's name above the title, which'll only give him more to grumble about), the latest entry, Winnie the Pooh, looks in everything from its title on down like a return to first principles - literally so, in that we see the denizens of Hundred Acre Wood interacting with the words and illustrations on the pages that originally gave them to the world.

Their quests to pin the tail on the donkey, rescue Christopher Robin from the feared Baksun, and (in the case of Pooh) replenish their reserves of hunny (or huny, in its alternative spelling) are further sweetened here by a series of gags about letters, paragraphs and the authorial voice; a whole team of writers is credited, but the hero remains the one who spun a whole Abbott and Costello routine out of the phonic similarities of "not", "knot" and "naught". As teaching devices go, Winnie the Pooh is right out of the old school: were it not for the Zooey Deschanel-trilled songs, and John Cleese's narration, you'd swear you'd have seen this before, most likely on an episode of Disney Time circa 1984. Yet if the company's animation department is going to insist on looking backwards to past glories, better the clean lines and defiant 2D of this than the cluttered compromise of Tangled and The Princess and the Frog.

Winnie the Pooh is on nationwide release.

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