'Winnie the Pooh' Movie Re-Captures Old Fans With New Adventure

Winnie the Pooh movieThe first thing you notice about the new Winnie the Pooh movie is that everything seems awfully familiar. Disney's fresh take on the classic Winnie the Pooh movies of the '60s and '70s has been carefully crafted to give the parents nostalgic for their favorite childhood films just enough of the original flavor to keep us satisfied. But make no mistake, the movie opening July 15 is made for a new generation of kids.

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As one of those parents who grew up on Winnie the Pooh, whose daughter's nursery was absolutely dripping with 100 Acre Wood whimsy, it wasn't without trepidation that I walked into an early screening on the ABC studios lot on behalf of The Stir. I wanted to walk out knowing I could share this with my daughter, that I could introduce her to my favorite character of all time in a theater, to make her feel as I did when my mother set aside our copies of the A. A. Milne books and finally allowed me to see an animated version of the bear of very little brain. But I was nervous. As I asked directors Don Hall and Stephen Anderson, how can one approach such iconic characters without apprehension that you'd fail a generation of children

But Hall put me at ease with his explanation: "Stephen, I, and then our story crew really pored over these books and had to absorb them, because we wanted to write it like Milne's writing it today ... once we did all the research and actually just started that, that fear and intimidation kinda went away and got replaced with just us having fun."

Fun is exactly what this movie is. Based on three short stories written by Milne, the film eschews the tales of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and the like for adventures not yet portrayed on-screen. It wastes little time on character development, using the audience's own experiences with the characters as an excuse to dive directly into the story.

The result is a movie that's more quickly paced than the old fare, paced more for today's kids, kids used to the immediacy of an iPhone placed in their lap to play games, to calling up a favorite TV show on YouTube. But the directors' research shows in their attempts to woo the parents -- with a live-action start similar to the old films, with the traditional interaction between the characters and the narrator (voiced by John Cleese), with several of the original tunes updated but not decimated by Zooey Deschanel. There's just enough there, but not too much.

The real strength of the new movie is in the humor, from the word play that will go right over most kids' heads but keep parents engaged to the silly screw-up perpetrated by Owl (Craig Ferguson at his best) that provides the back story to the whole film.

Will you be heading to the theaters tomorrow to see Winnie the Pooh? Were you a Pooh fan as a kid?

 

Image via Disney

Disclosure: The Walt Disney company covered the author's expenses to visit ABC Studios to preview this film. All opinions are her own.

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