Movie 51: Winnie the Pooh

posterYou might be thinking. ‘wait a minute Rachel, you’ve already reviewed Winnie the Pooh’? And you would be right but I already reviewed Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which was released in 1977 and is one of only 7 films I’ve given an A+ too.  Today we aren’t talking about that film but the 2011, Winnie the Pooh.  While not as strong as 1977, Winnie the Pooh has its own appeal and magic and I enjoy it.

As I mentioned in my Consider the Audience post one of the things that makes this Winnie the Pooh special is it is made for little kids.  Toddlers in fact, and any mother who has sat through Barney for the millionth time will tell you what a rarity quality for small children is.  The original is made for slightly older children, or at least the Heffalumps and Woozles is a little scary for the smallest of children.  It’s also a little bit longer and small children have a shorter attention span, which is why not many movies are made for the demographic, mostly just TV.

If the movie is not for you maybe you should ask yourself the question ‘maybe it just wasn’t made for me?’.  Most movies can’t be everything to everyone.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with a sweet, short, simple movie made to entertain toddlers.

Oh and did I mention I love the music by Zooey Deschanel and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the team behind Frozen!  I consider Winnie the Pooh to be one of the underrated, hidden gems of the Disney Canon.  Not as good as the first but still a lot to love considering it is for a different demographic.

The Production-

Wow there was nothing on this movie.  Very few production details anywhere I looked.  The few things I found is veterans Stephen Anderson and Don Hall directed. Burny Mattinson, a Pooh veteran, was a lead storyboard artist and they hired a new cast including Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Tom Kenny as Rabbit and Craig Ferguson as Owl.

Here is the trailer

For the music they had new songs except for the title Sherman Brother’s song which is sung by Zooey Deschanel.  I love the new intro.

Some critics didn’t like the length but again that’s actually its big selling point.  63 minutes is perfect for a little child.  Plus, the original was only 11 minutes longer, so is that really such a big deal?  Winnie the Pooh went in against a Harry Potter movie but it still did ok.  Made 44.7 mil in theater on budget of 30.

The animation is lovely and it is great to see 2D back again with Disney as much as I enjoy the computer generated movies.

The Story-

There are 2 stories, instead of 4 that make up Winnie the Pooh.  Our first story is helping Eeyore find his tail.   The writing is very sharp and I found myself laughing throughout.

The gain tries a number of different possibilities for Eeyore’s tail but nothing is working.  Finally they decide to ask Christopher Robin.

eeyoreChristopher’s eyes follow the anime big eye look we saw in Tangled and other films which bothers some but not me.

winnie 2011

They don’t have much luck finding a suitable tail when the day is done.  The next morning they find a note from Christopher

backson

The smart one of the group, Owl, determines Christopher has been taken by the Backson and is in trouble!  We get a charming song that isn’t too scary for little kids but still nostalgic for adults. I’ve sat with little kids watching this number and they just love it!

So the gang goes out to find the Backson

WINNIE THE POOH

There’s interactions with the narrator just as in the original and 4th wall jokes that are very dry and funny.  You also have characters behaving like little children such as when Piglet cuts up the rope to save the gang.

We also get a cute song where Pooh dreams of honey.

Eventually Christopher returns and explains the confusion and we get our gang back together again.  It’s as simple as that!

hug

Movie Review/Conclusion-

Let me again reiterate, this movie is not for everyone but I don’t think it is trying to be.  What it is trying to be, a simple movie for very young children, it does very well.  It’s sweet and Winnie the Pooh continues to mean childhood in 2011 as it did in 1977.

There are enough little jokes and play on words like when Owl says ‘issue’ and the gang thinks he’s say ‘achew’ and blessing him.  That’s clever and funny.  It’s a soft, simple, short movie that parents will enjoy and their little one’s will fall in love with.

The music is a great folksy take on Winnie the Pooh and the animation is bright and colorful.  I love that it doesn’t shout at your kids or use hip lingo or stories meant for older kids.  It gives simple stories and let’s their imaginations go wild.  I can’t imagine a little girl or boy that wouldn’t love Winnie the Pooh.  It’s bright and colorful and full of warmth and charm.

If I was going to fault it I’d say some of the new voices aren’t perfect but I don’t hate them either.  They are just ok. Also they could have made the Backson story a little shorter to fit in one more plot device.

But I really do love it and hope they make more feature films for Winnie and company.  Of course, I’ve liked all the Winnie the Pooh movies, Disney Canon or not (I had 3 siblings over 10 years younger than me so I got used to watching small children’s programming and understanding what was quality and engaging for them and what is not.  Winnie the Pooh is).

Curious George is another great choice for very small children if you are looking for suggestions.

Overall Grade- B

My Take on Darkness in Disney

One thing which has been continually  brought up on the blog is the issue of darkness or evil in a movie and when does it cross the line into disturbing and violent.  It’s a hard question to answer to be honest.  It is kind of a ‘I know it when I see it’  situation but I will try to explain.

Few things to keep in mind.

1.  I am not a fan of scary movies or horror- I personally do not like the sensation of being scared, never have, never will.  I recognize that is my personal preference and there is nothing inherently wrong with horror movies, but everyone comes to movie viewing with a set of likes and dislikes such as disliking musicals or romantic comedies.  I am Legend, Rear Window, Wait Until Dark are about as scary as I get.

Even a very popular super hero franchise is too scary and intense for my taste.  I find violent content sticks in my brain and I have a hard time getting rid of it.

2. I am also a deeply religious person with conservative values so some things I do not care for because it crosses a line between ghost story and evil such as exorcism movies. I can’t really take off that hat because it’s who I am so I can only look at films through that perspective and try to learn from others who see through a different lens (that’s the whole point of blogging like this!).

Ghost stories are usually OK-

What I mean by this is a story can be set in an all dark world, a ghostly world and it usually is pretty good.  For example, I like:

Corpse Bride-

corpse bride

ParaNorman-paranorman-hero2

Nightmare Before Christmas-The_Nightmare_Before_Christmas121510

Spirited Away-

spirited away

These types of movies are not as upsetting to children or me because they are entirely within their world so the characters become likable and have nuances within the darkness.  There is usually a protagonist in these types of movies who is very easy to relate to despite their crazy environment.

Coraline I wasn’t as big a fan of not because of the images but I felt the story dragged and I didn’t feel that connection to the lead I needed for the dark imagery.

Good vs Evil is OK-

Many children stories are about the battle of good vs evil and I think that is great.  Kids should not grow up believing the world is gumdrops and rainbows.  In fact, being a religious person an understanding of Satan and evil is very important with of course an understanding of Christ and His goodness to compliment it.

I think that balance is the key to my liking a good vs evil movie.  There should be hope throughout the film mixed in with moments of real peril.  When it is all evil, evil, evil, evil and then finally the good guy wins I grow frustrated.

One of the great things about the Harry Potter movies is evil is a real palatable force but there is always hope, friendship, love and kindness.

voldemort harry potter2

The Wicked Witch of the West is a pretty scary villain.  It is unclear how Dorthy is going to make it out of the situation alive. I know kids where Wizard of Oz is too much for them, so a lot of this depends on the kid (or adult watching).  I would say Wizard of Oz pushes the line for small children but she is so over-the-top to be almost more funny than scary that I think it’s fine for most kids.  Most of the Disney villains fall into the category of the Wicked Witch.  They are villains but so over-the-top that they don’t bring us down but entertain us with their evil ways.  The heroine or hero is never completely without hope and there are enough moments of peace and safety to make it all work.wicked witch

Return to Oz on the other hand did not work for me and petrified me as s child.  It’s one thing to have a wicked witch.  It’s another to have a witch who has a hallway of her collection of heads, with wheelies and electroshock therapy on Dorothy.  That’s crossing the line and it gave me nightmares as a little girl.

return to oz

Don’t be mean spirited!-

You’ve heard me say on the blog, particularly about The Rescuers, is I thought it was a ‘mean spirited’ film.  What do I mean by that?  Well, it goes back to tone.  Villains can exist and should exist in a movie, especially a fairytale but when a character is picked on to the point of being an unempowered victim than the movie starts to lose me.  Penny is treated so badly in The Rescuers.  She is told she is worthless, unadoptable, homely, shot at several times, and forced to go down the cave.  To me there is no sense of empowerment or hope for the character.  It’s just beat her, beat her, beat her until she is rescued.  That’s where it crosses the line to me and becomes mean spirited, when it loses its hope.

medusa-and-penny

So not only do you have to get the right kind of villain but you have to use them in the right dosage.  Rescuers Down Under I loved because it kept its hope and used McLeach very little- just enough to be menacing without being shrill or overbearing.

Again, this is just my perspective but I thought it might helpful when reading my blog.   I was scared of Medusa (not in the good way) as a little girl because nothing that happens in The Rescuers (except for the mice rescuing Penny) is really that outrageous.  It could totally happen and probably has happened that a little girl has been abducted by mean people to help them with a task like going down the cave (or some other scheme to make money).

The music and color palate can also have a big influence on creating tone (and nothing is harder as a writer than creating the right tone).   The Rescuers had music which made me feel even worse for Penny and it was all very unpleasant.  Not exciting, funny or shocking like a good creepy villain or scary scene will do.

In Rescuers Down Under Cody immediately has friends when he’s abducted and there is a hope and light that makes it less dark and mean spirited.

Pinocchio was too far over the line for me as a child.  Pleasure Island is very disturbing and no resolution is ever made.  Evil is not defeated, the kids are never changed back to kids from being donkeys.  This was terrifying.  It has only been as an adult I can appreciate it for the morality play it is but I still couldn’t give it an A because I just know I didn’t enjoy it as a child and that has to count for something.

The thing about Pinocchio is it also maintains its tone throughout, which was terrifying as a child but as an adult I can appreciate it more; whereas, other movies try to swing around more and so they aren’t pleasant as an adult or a child.  Pinocchio does have Jimminy but for most of the movie it is a dark, scary tone.  I hated it as a child but like it all right now.

donkeys

Don’t Be R Rated in G Rated Film-

Occasionally a film will come out using childlike themes or settings but for adults.  I think this is great! A perfect example is Pan’s Labyrinth.  I admire Guillermo del Toro for not trying to wedge his vision into a G rated movie but just making the hard R he wanted to make.  I wish Disney would at least once be brave enough to make an adults only movie.  I think with Hunchback the artists wanted to but the studio toned it down creating a tonal mess.

pans labyrinth

I was lucky enough to be somewhat sheltered as a child and it served me quite well.  While I think it is healthy for children to learn about evil and that bad things can happen there are certain subjects I don’t feel a little boy or girl needs to know about until they are older.  Rape and violent murder are in that discussion.  That was my main issue with Hunchback.  I do not want to have to explain to my 7-year-old about lust, rape, assault and burning a family alive.  To me that crosses a line which kids don’t need to cross.  It doesn’t make them a better person or inspire their imagination like a Wizard of Oz or a Nightmare Before Christmas.

Like I said before, there are also certain things because of my religious views that I don’t really want to explain to children until they are older.  For example, in Princess in the Frog the villain is a voodoo man (won’t give away my review).  If I had kids that would be a concern for me because I don’t really want them to know about voodoo, possession, exorcism, heathen practices.  My parents would never let us play with Ouija boards for the same reason.  I recognize everyone does not have the same beliefs but those are mine and they affect my enjoyment of a movie.

Kids can be Sad-

You might think I only like movies which are happy Christian films and that is not the case.  I love movies that take children’s feelings seriously.  It is fine for children to be sad and to learn about themselves as full people.  I love Where the Wild Things Are and many people feel that is a depressing picture but I remember being that thoughtful, sometimes sad kid, wondering about life. wild things areI wrote up a defense of Where the Wild Things Are on my other blog:

http://smilingldsgirl.com/2014/02/20/where-the-wild-things-are-defended/

But it also gets a bit of a pass for me because like Pans Labyrinth it wasn’t really marketed or made for kids.  There are moments which are kid-like but they are still enjoyable to adults not like the gargoyles made clearly to appeal to only kids.   If I had kids I would have to weigh the type of child and maturity levels (and ability to handle a slower paced movie) before watching Where the Wild Things Are..

I love stories about people who don’t feel at home in their environment, who break free and find out who they really are.  That’s why I love The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Where the Wild Things Are . I could go on and on…

Who Knows…

Perhaps when I have kids I will go even further away from darker pictures.  I don’t know but I know what I like now, what I liked as a child and how certain pictures come off to me.  If I say something feels mean-spirited or hateful it doesn’t mean I don’t like darkness in children’s films.  I’ve just given you a number dark films I do like.  It just means that on the particular day with that particular film it was too much.  It was too hateful. It was too mean.

I think part of it also has to do with having been bullied as a child badly.   I know people roll their eyes know when they hear bullying stories but it was a profound experience in my life.  I guess that’s why I am more sensitive to situations where I feel a character is being victimized not merely threatened.

I also know I have become softer and less tolerant in some ways as an adult.  A few years ago I reread a bunch of Roald Dahl books I loved as a child and they seemed very violent to me.  I was shocked.  So, who knows! I just do my best to give and defend my responses and what I would feel if I had a daughter viewing the films.

That’s all I can do and I’m having a great time doing it, so thanks for reading!

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And I realize I am probably in the minority and a bit of a wimp in these views but it’s me and hopefully I still have positive things to say about any movie even if I don’t like the dark tones (no F’s yet! Always something I like).