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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Winnie The Pooh

October 24th, 2011

Winnie the Pooh - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, and Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack

Winnie the Pooh began as a character in a series of books for kids starting back in 1926. (Actually, he started as a real bear in the Winnipeg Zoo, but that's a different story.) Winnie the Pooh first came to theaters in 1977 with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but over the past decade a number of spin-off films focusing on the other main characters have been released. This summer, Winnie the Pooh was released in theaters, but it was unable to find an audience. In its defense, it was going up against Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Now that the competition is much lower on the home market, will the film find an audience?

The Movie

The film begins like many Winnie the Pooh films, in live action. It starts in the room of Christopher Robin, before we move into the storybook with the narrator hinting at the unusual adventures Christopher Robin and his stuffed animals get into.

The first adventure begins when Winnie the Pooh, while searching for honey, comes across Eeyore. Eeyore not only has no honey, but his tail has gone missing. Fortunately, Owl is there to help. He comes up with the idea to offer a prize to whomever find Eeyore the best tail. Pooh comes up with the perfect prize: a jar of honey. Coming up with a good tail for Eeyore is harder than it seems.

The next adventure begins with Pooh still looking for honey. This time he goes to Christopher Robin's house, but only find a note. Owl is the only one able to read it. "Gon Out Bizy Back Soon C.R." Christopher Robin's been captured by a ferocious Backson! This time it's Rabbit who formulates a plan. They'll take all the things the Backson likes to break and use that as bait to trap it. And the ultimate bait is... Honey. Or at least an empty honey pot on a picnic blanket that is covering the deep hole. In the meantime, Tigger decides to hunt the Backson and he recuits Eeyore to help, but first he has to be Tiggerfied.

Before they can get the Backson, Pooh gets hungry and he and Piglet work at getting some honey. The lack of honey begins to get to him and he starts having honey-colored hallucinations. He then spots a pot of honey, sitting on a picnic blanket. Not only does Pooh get trapped, but Owl's attempt to free him ends with everyone trapped in the hole. How are they going to get out of this mess?

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of my favorite cartoons and I consider it to be on par with the best of the Golden Age of Disney animation. So when I heard they were making a new version, I was filled with equal parts anticipation and dread. I was really worried they would mess it up. I was really worried they wouldn't understand what made the original so wonderful. Thankfully, I can report my worries were misplaced. They get nearly everything right. The style of animation, while definitely more modern, has the same feel as the original. The style of storytelling feels very segmented, but this is true of the original. It's like a storybook with a series of somewhat connected vignettes. The characters interact with the narrator and the very words in the book in a way that's even better this time around. (I especially like the letter ladder.) The voice acting is mostly spot-on, including the few actors who were new to these parts. I particularly enjoyed Craig Ferguson's take on Owl.

That's not to say the film is perfect and there are three main flaws. Firstly, the film is short. If you don't count the opening and closing credits, it's barely 52 minutes. Granted, the end credits are very entertaining. They are more entertaining and having higher replay value than many feature-length movies I've reviewed recently. (They start with live action shots of the stuffed animals reenacting scenes from the movie and then continue with the animated characters interacting with the credits and other little jokes.) Secondly, none of the songs are as strong as the ones in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Granted, the songs are good and they add to the film, but nothing here comes close to "Heffalumps and Woozles" or "Little Black Rain Cloud". Finally, there's something off with Rabbit. The character is a little different in a way that was a little bothersome. I don't think it will be a problem for kids who didn't grow up on the original film and, quite frankly, I'm pretty sure if I watched the film several more times, I wouldn't notice the difference as much.

... Also, I miss Gopher.

Overall this film has the warmth to become a favorite of kids and their parents... and even some adults.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include three deleted / extended / alternate scenes with intro from the directors and a three-minute short, with suggestions on how to create a baby nursery with a Winnie the Pooh theme. There are also two short films. The first is The Ballad of Nessie, a five-minute short on the mythical creature of Loch Ness narrated by Billy Connolly. Nessie lived in a small pond in the highlands, until Tycoon MacFroogle turned her home into a mini-golf course. Now she has to look for a new home. The second is Pooh's Balloon, a three-minute short from the original movie.

The Blu-ray has a few additional extras, including two additional deleted / extended / alternate scenes. There is also a nine-minute making of featurette. You can also watch the movie in sing-along mode and / or cut to just the songs. The Blu-ray comes with the DVD and can be purchased with the Digital Copy or without.

The technical presentation is excellent, especially the video. The film has amazing color, incredible details, deep blacks, contrast is spot-on and there's never even a hint of flaws or digital compression. The audio is very clear, but there's not a lot of activity when it comes to the surround sound speakers. They are mostly reserved for the soundtrack with the occasional action scene giving them a bit more to do.

The Blu-ray costs about 30% more than the DVD, plus it includes the DVD. If you want, you can spend an extra $3 for the Digital Copy, if you get a lot of use out of those. Both are a good deal.

The Verdict

Winnie the Pooh will very likely earn an Oscar nomination this year. In fact, at the moment, it is the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature-Length Film. The only real complaint I have is the extras, which are a little soft. DVD is worth a rental, but the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack or Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy Combo Pack are absolutely worth picking up and contenders for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, Winnie the Pooh