Pooh la laWinnie The Pooh
Direction: Stephen J Anderson and Don Hall
Actors: Jim Cummings, Craig Ferguson
It’s resolutely old-fashioned. At a time when hand-drawn animation appears to be almost extinct, it is a great pleasure to come across a cartoon that aims to keep the back to basics tradition alive.
While the latest production from the House of Mouse may not be in the same league as the studios other animal-oriented features like The Lion King, it does boast some entrancing visuals, distinctive vocal performances — notwithstanding the absence of a celebrity voice cast — and a narrative culled from the illustrated children’s stories by AA Milne.
The plot stays faithful to the menagerie from Milne’s work. There’s the eponymous bear (dubbed by Cummings) who’s determined to win the prize — a pot of ‘hunny’ — in the contest to find the lost tail of the donkey (voiced in appropriately despondent tones by Bud Luckey).
Also in the fray are Tigger (Cummings again), Piglet (Travis Oates) and the mother-child kangaroo duo, Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez who also co-wrote the lyrics) and Roo (Wyatt Hall).
The animals also bond with their little human friend (Jack Boulter). Mistakenly believing that he has been kidnapped, they set off on a frantic mission to vanquish an imaginary enemy.
The crisis is instigated by the supercilious Owl (Craig Ferguson, hysterically funny) when he misinterprets the words of a handwritten note from the lad. Adopting a no-frills approach to animation, the Anderson-Hall director duo draws out the capriciousness at the heart of Milne’s text as well as EH Shepard’s illustrations. The backdrop of the Hundred Acre Wood is rendered with palpable affection.
More importantly, words are ingeniously brought to life as the narrator (veteran John Cleese) consistently interacts with the storybook characters. In one scene, a swarm of displaced letters even comes in handy. The animals use them as a ladder to climb out of a pit into which they have fallen.
In an attempt to liven proceedings, there are a couple of new songs by the actress-chanteuse Zooey Deschanel.
The background music score is rather grating, though. The running time of Winnie the Pooh is a scant 63 minutes. It’s accompanied by a quaint animated short titled The Ballad of Nessie about the Loch Ness monster. All in all, a jolly good time is guaranteed.