Winnie the Pooh was released only a few days ago, but I’ve already seen it twice. Once on opening day, and again today (yesterday, by the time you read this), with my grandmother. Although perhaps not my favorite Pooh film it is still a wonderful movie.
The animated short The Ballad of Nessie accompanies this film. On my first trip I was a few minutes late, and ended up missing all but the last few seconds of this. I made extra sure I got to the theater in time to catch it the second time. Though very good, this short is exactly that. Short. I watch a lot of animated shorts, but this one seemed even shorter than it should have been. The story is about Nessie, aka the Loch Ness Monster. She lives in a small pond with her rubber duck friend MacQuack, until a businessman buys the land and builds a golf course right where poor Nessie’s pond had been. She and MacQuack travel around Scotland to find a new home, being told to keep their chins up and not cry, until finally she can’t handle it anymore. She cries and cries and eventually her tears create Loch Ness. It is an adorable story, emphasized by the adorable animation. The backgrounds in particular stood out to me. The hills of Scotland are drawn as a green plaid. Yes, it may be a bit much (we got that it’s in Scotland, no need to stick plaid everywhere) but it is a neat effect that I haven’t seen before.
After Nessie was over it was time for the main feature to begin. This too is very short, only about an hour long, which was a huge disappointment. It opens with some live-action shots of Christopher Robin’s bedroom, complete with the toys themselves, before transitioning into the animated opening. Though the song is now sung by Zooey Deschanel what we see is very similar to the opening of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, in that it is the characters move around a map of the Hundred Acre Wood inside the book. And it was nice to hear Tigger’s name added to the song. Pooh wakes up to find he is out of honey, and while searching for something to eat, he discovers Eeyore’s tail is missing. The whole gang gathers to find a new tail, but nothing seems to work. Later, Pooh is looking for Christopher Robin, but his friend is missing, having left a note saying he was busy, but will be back soon. Owl misreads this, and everyone thinks Christopher has been kidnapped by a monster known as a Backson. This launches one of the coolest scenes in the entire movie. They sing a song about the Backson and what terrible things it does, but they are drawn as chalk drawings on a blackboard. It was very neat.
Overall the animation was superb. In today’s world of computer generated animation, it is nice to see something traditionally animated, and done so well. I’m a fan of all things meta, so the characters interacting with the narrator and the words in the book as much as they did was wonderful. The tone of the film is very calm, and while I personally prefer Pooh movies that have a bit more edge to them, such as the Tigger Movie or Pooh’s Grand Adventure (which this reminded me of a lot), I cannot fault something for sticking so closely to the source material. If you’re a fan of the original Pooh movie, or the books themselves, you will adore this.
One scene I had trouble with comes a little over halfway through the movie. While preparing to hunt down the Backson there is a bit that seems more like they are preparing for a war. It seemed oddly out of place for such an otherwise lighthearted film, and both times I have seen it I couldn’t get over just how jarring it is to the rest of the movie.
My verdict? This is an excellent movie. Between the lighthearted nature and the frequency of more, shall we say, trippy scenes, it would not be out of place among classic Disney films. Don’t go into this expecting something along the emotional level of Princess and the Frog or Toy Story 3, it is definitely a more childlike film, but even if you don’t have kids to see it with it can still be an enjoyable experience.