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23 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pooh from the Bayou, 14 April 2011
This review is from: Winnie the Pooh [DVD] (DVD)
Clive James once replayed an interview between an English music journalist and an American boy-band (New Kids On The Block, as I recall) in which, bereft of any better inspiration, the hapless reporter asked the boys what stuff they'd liked when they were growing up.

"Oh, I loved Winnie the Pooh," volunteered one. Then, after a pause, he added: "did you have that in England?"

That this question could ever have popped into a New Kid's head; that such a profoundly, quintessentially, English creation as Pooh Bear could ever have been so grossly perverted: for this we can The Walt Disney Company of Burbank, California. Since 1966, generations of children, - not just the American ones who seem to deserve it - have been subjected to a Winnie the Pooh rendered - bastardised - *ruined* - by Walt Disney.

Under Disney's supervision E. H. Shepherd's delightfully winsome watercolours were butchered, surviving really only as backgrounds. A. A. Milne's characters were re-imagined - no, *de*-imagined - into standard-issue Disney characters in garish Technicolor with big eyes, fat, plain lines, and - horror of horrors - American accents. AMERICAN ACCENTS! Can you imagine it? Yanks in the Hundred Acre Wood!

It became almost as if there were two unrelated cultural phenomena: Pooh Bear (the proper one, beloved of obedient children in nice Commonwealth countries, and living only in books) and Winnie the Pooh, (the plastic one, gobbled up like so much candy by ghastly children from the colonies, emblazoned on lunch boxes, pencil-cases, available in all formats of home video).

It can't be denied, that Disney's franchise has been extremely successful, and these days is as much a part of the collective cultural fabric as Milne's. Like a mendacious cuckoo, it has even begun to supplant it. But, even so, the last time this particular travesty was visited on the big screen on these shores was 35 years ago. There has been time for proper Pooh to stage a recovery.

Until now: this summer Disney is "bringing back" Pooh.

Yet perhaps all is not lost: on current form, Disney is enjoying a new lease of life. So much did I enjoy its recent Tangled I was prepared to reserve judgment and hoped - what, with developments in computer animation and, dare I say it, the sophistication of the average American four-year-old, this was the corporation's chance to atone for a 45-year-old crime.

Alas, it is an opportunity missed. If Disney has appealed to a tradition, it has only been to its own. 2011's Winnie The Pooh appears to have been animated in the traditional hand-drawn fashion, without the aid of computers. But it hasn't been animated well, as Disney feature films used to be: the illustrations looked rushed and the animation bears the staccato motion that comes from over economising with frames.

Despite having John Cleese on board for narration duties, the opportunity to restore received British pronunciation to the Bear with little brain has not been taken. Owl, however, has a decent upper-class twit-twoo, Christopher Robin a rather incongruous Norf Larndon, but both sound out of step with the remainder of the cast, all of whom apparently hail from the North American sub-continent. Eeyore, courtesy of Bud Luckey's Montana drawl, from the Mid West. Pooh Bear sounds positively Cajun. Can you imagine it? Pooh Bear from New Orleans!

The only acceptable foreign accents, you would think, ought to be those of Kanga and Roo. But even here Disney has plumped for Californian marsupials.

The film runs for just 60 minutes, in which time it conflates and reconstructs (fairly effectively, it must be said) a number of stories from Pooh Corner: in which Eeyore loses his tail, in which Pooh goes hunting for honey, in which Piglet finds a balloon and in which all concerned deal with the depredations of a loose backson. There are songs. Not nice songs, like "nobody knows, tiddleypom", but broadway style "numbers". Bad broadway style numbers. There is a somewhat psychedelic scene in which Pooh swims around a giant honeypot. To music. It's just wrong.

You may surmise from the above that I didn't much like Winnie The Pooh. It's true: I didn't. I profoundly disliked it. Largely on principle, I admit, but a fair sized portion was for the film itself. This is a lacklustre affair, and you wonder why Disney made it. It isn't as if Disney and Pixar haven't got better things to do (the trailer for Cars 2 looks terrific!). It isn't as if some things aren't better left well alone.

Pooh Bear from New Orleans indeed.

Olly Buxton
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 May 2011 14:11:54 BDT
S. Cowan says:
So, Pooh is a bastard creation with his Americanised accent? Perhaps. However, you enjoyed Tangled, which is itself an Americanisation of a German fairytale. German's not allowed the same precious protectionism then? Your views may have provided some worth were it not for some rather odd double-standards. Me, I think I'll take the film for what it is; entertainment. Unless, of course, your opinion regarding narrative and animation are proved correct. In which case, I shall dislike the film for being a misfire.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jun 2011 08:48:17 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
Touche - your point re Tangled is a fair one.

Posted on 21 Jun 2011 17:20:18 BDT
Olly, get a life you conceited, aristocratic wannabe, you'd mistakenly believe that someone with above average vocabulary and the uppety name olly would have the wisdom to understand that his critique is excessive. We're not analysing aeschylus' Prometheus bound but a children's story. Go read through Marcus aurelius' meditations again and this time pay attention.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2011 18:22:16 BDT
S. Cowan says:
Whoah, reign in the personal insults a little there.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2011 19:10:08 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
It's ok, Pamela's actually my mother-in-law. She loves these little japes almost as much as she loves Aeschylus. And I love them too, don't I, mum!

Posted on 29 Jun 2011 14:33:48 BDT
Matt says:
I do see your point; of course an all-British version would be welcome - but who is there to produce it? To be honest I think Disney has done a reasonable job with Winnie over the years, despite the outcries from purists...I fear if it had been left in the hands of Dreamworks we would've had Brad Pitt voicing Pooh, Eddie Murphy as Eeyore and Britney Spears as Kanga.

This was a rather puzzling release I admit, and Disney did virtually nothing to promote it; I'm not sure why it was made, but personally I found it agreeable enough though not a patch on Tangled.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jun 2011 15:32:14 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
well how about Stephen Fry, Charlie Higson, Bill Bailey and Paul Whitehouse???

Eddie Murphy, of course, is one of the most experienced Donkey Narrators out there (and an excellent one at that). BBC once did an audio version where Kanga and Roo had australian accents which was hilarious - "Roo, Dear!".

Posted on 17 Jul 2011 16:17:26 BDT
Martin Allen says:
With studio Ghibli you get a choice of American dialogue or Japanese dialogue with subtitles. I much prefer the original soundtrack rather than the Americanised version perhaps they should do an English version of Winnie the Pooh so we can see which is more pleasing.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jul 2011 23:31:21 BDT
Olly Buxton says:
try this: Winnie-the-Pooh (BBC Radio Collection). Pooh by the Beeb. How it ought to be.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Sep 2011 14:57:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Sep 2011 14:57:30 BDT
secondalibi says:
I am 37 years old and remember 'Winnie The Pooh' from my childhood. I went into this expecting it to be nothing more than a poor imitation, but I was totally wrong! I think I may have even enjoyed it more than my children did! :)

Seriously, 'Winnie The Pooh' has never been better than this.

- G.
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