Monday, November 7, 2011

Winnie the Pooh - DVD + Blu-ray Combo Pack Review

Like many children growing up in the 70s, I thank Disney for the introduction to the timeless, classic children's book character Winnie the Pooh. My brother and I listened to our Winnie the Pooh vinyl record and followed along with the accompanying storybook over and over and over. I still can sing the Winnie the Pooh theme song from memory. It's a sweet as honey tune that sticks in your head, one you never forget.

Those fond childhood memories are one of the reasons I'm so excited that Disney has released an all-new, animated film based on the loveable bear all stuffed with fluff. The new Winnie the Pooh movie, first shown in theaters this summer, is now available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray Combo pack. Amidst the flurry of new movie releases, including Cars 2 and the final Harry Potter film, Winnie the Pooh is a welcome and familiar return to the basics, a movie full of quiet humor and heartwarming charm.

On an ordinary day, Pooh sets out to find some honey but gets sidetracked and ends up helping out his friends. Pooh discovers that poor Eeyore has lost his tail and the all the friends -- Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga and Roo -- engage in a contest searching for a replacement. The group suggests all sorts of silly and inadequate replacement tails including a cuckoo clock, accordion, and dart board but nothing suffices. While thinking of a way to win the contest, Pooh discovers a note from Christopher Robin but, unable to read it himself, he takes it to Owl. Owl misinterprets the note, “Gone out. Busy. Back soon.” With great concern, he remarks that Christopher Robin has been captured by a "Backson." The group then switches their focus on a way to capture the Backson, and Eeyore's tail eventually turns up.

Returning to the style of the original Disney Pooh featurettes, this new movie has that same hand-drawn animation look with the classic warm watercolor backgrounds. Additionally, the movie opens with live scene set, a view of Christopher Robin's bedroom filled with toys. But what I appreciate the most is the storybook narration and wonderful integration of the book pages into the film. The characters interact with the text; they climb on the letters and walk on the pages of the book while the narrator (John Cleese) talks. It feels exactly as if the story has come to life. And there's enough subtle humor to amuse adults as well as children. Some of the hilarious scenes come directly from Milne's book like one where owl says they must "issue a reward" and Pooh thinks owl is sneezing. I think the film brings something special to the bantering dialog, making it even more humorous than the original text.

In usual Disney fashion, the plot of the movie is inspired by books but altered with a Disney twist. The film retains all the elements of the book chapter "In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One," but also expands on the idea, making the search for the tail into an elaborate contest, with a pot of honey as the prize. The Backson comes from “In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day”, though Backson is much more of a monster in the movie. Parts of the Backson hunt remind me of Piglet and Pooh's attempts to trap a Heffalump in the book.

There are two unusual song sequences in the movie, "The Backson Song" and "Everything Is Honey" where the animation departs from the traditional. In the Backson sequence, the animation looks like Owl's chalk drawings. And the "Everything is Honey" sequence, done in all honey-hued, golden colors, was interesting but was probably my least favorite part of the film because it just seemed out of place, with a retro synchronized swimming quality. Overall though, musically the movie shines, and I adore Zooey Deschanel's version of the signature "Winnie the Pooh" song and the happy go-lucky end credits song, "So Long."

Share your favorite Winnie the Pooh characters with a child and revisit the world of the One Hundred Acre Woods with this lighthearted family film. And then, once you're done watching, crack open one of Milne's books to compare and contrast the storyline. Whether found in the films or the books, Winnie the Pooh is and will always be the perfect prescription to satisfy your own urge for a smackerel of something sweet.

Blu-ray Bonus Features: Unfortunately, unlike many Disney films, I'm a little sad to report that this film does not seem to include any sort commentary, a behind-the-scenes bonus feature I typically enjoy. However, the backstory behind the film development is briefly discussed in the Blu-ray Bonus feature, "Winnie the Pooh And His Story Too." Directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall also introduce 5 deleted scenes. In addition there's a Sing-Along as well as two different bonus shorts, "Mini-Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Balloon" and "The Ballad of Nessie."

Related Links:

(DVD Source: 2-Disc Combo Pack provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)


Teacher said...

We decided to take my 2 1/2 year old to see this movie in the theater. It was his first movie and we set him up with pooh stuffed animals and a sippy cup to watch Pooh. I thought the short length of the film was a plus, at least for us, because we stayed interested and enjoyed the film thoroughly. I agree especially with 2 of your points: The integration of story book pages was especially nice, and the song sequences were a bit odd, although not unpleasant.

Cascia Talbert said...

I haven't seen the new Winnie the Pooh movie but who doesn't love that "silly old bear." I'll have to check out that movie. I'm sure my little ones would enjoy it.