After the over-hyped, computer-generated and 3D-animated offerings from Hollywood in recent years, what a pleasure it is to see Disney back doing what it does best: telling delightful tales using classic, hand-drawn 2D animation. Disney has been making animated magic out of 'Winnie the Pooh' since the 1960s, when it produced a series of entertaining shorts, often directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, one of Walt Disney's original 'Nine Old Men'. Some entries into the genre since have been more successful than others. The 1977 Pooh film was pretty well received, while 'Pooh's Grand Adventure' (1997) and 'Pooh's Heffalump Movie' (2005) came and went without much fanfare.
This latest outing for AA Milne's most endearing hero, however, deserves all the fanfare one can muster. Based on three tales from the Hundred Acre Wood, the movie follows our unassuming bear as he continues his endless search for that next jar of honey (love that rumbling belly!) while getting into scrapes with his pals, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Christopher Robin. Though there are echoes of Disney's 1977 Pooh film, directors Anderson and Hall have visually pared back this tale to its most simplistic; letting EH Shepard's superb drawings take centre stage but also playing with the artform, particularly when the author's words trickle upon the screen.
At times when most of the major animated movies are signing up A-List voice talent to help with the marketing of their product, it's good to see that Disney hasn't succumbed to that soft option. With the exception of narrator John Cleese, the voice talent are not that well known but Jim Cummings, who voices both Pooh and Tigger, deserves a mention for his sterling work. (Cummings wouldn't be a well-known name in general terms but as a voice artist, he's about as A-List as you can get: check out his CV). Elsewhere, Craig Ferguson provides the voice of Owl, while Bud Luckey is a doleful Eeyore.
Following such fine recent fare as 'The Princess and the Frog' (2008) and 'Tangled' (2010), it's clear that Disney honcho John Lasseter has managed to bring his Pixar magic to bear (no pun intended) on the Mouse's animated stable. 'Winnie the Pooh' is the best of the bunch and a delight for kids of all ages.