BLU-RAY REVIEW: Winnie the Pooh
The Hundred Acre Wood never looked so good...
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There’s something about Winnie the Pooh that puts a smile on your face, no matter where you're from or how old you are. Be it the original stories by creator A.A. Milne in the 1920s, the radio dramas of the 1930s, or the various cartoons from the 1960, 1970s and 1980s, there’s just something about the “tubby little buddy all stuffed with fluff” that makes him a childhood classic.
Now, 85 years after his creation, Pooh Bear is still bringing joy to children of all ages thanks to a new theatrical film from Disney which hit home video last week. Simply titled Winnie the Pooh, this relatively short (63 minute) theatrical release finds Pooh (Jim Cummings) and crew on a unique adventure throughout the Hundred Acre Wood as they search for Eeyore’s tail and - of course - Pooh's favorite snack, honey. The entire cast is here, including Pooh’s best friends Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter), the sad donkey Eeyore (Bud Luckey), the wise old Owl (Craig Ferguson), the jittery Rabbit (Tom Kenny), the timid Piglet (Travis Oates), the over-excitable Tigger (Jim Cummings), and the motherly Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and her son Roo (Wyatt Dean Hall). A hungry belly, hilariousness, and adventure ensues as do life lessons galore, which reveal the ever present need for friendship and love. And, as we all know, the need for friends and love is one lesson that's so very real – especially when you're a child and a stuffed bear is your best friend.
A beautiful blend of animation featuring the classically animated characters and the original storybook’s words, and featuring a soundtrack that’s at once familiar and new to fans of the series, Winnie the Pooh will delight fans of the lighthearted, tender, and simple tales of years gone by. Now, more than ever, when more and more children’s movies include violence, prejudice, and other negative aspects of human nature, it’s delightful to see a children’s film that focuses more on innocence, friendship, and caring than on who's right, wrong, bigger, stronger, faster, or better.
The adventure itself is well paced and, while there are a few slower portions which may find some toddlers restless, children over the age of 4, youth, and adults should find the 63-minute film flows very nicely. The film’s script finds a brilliant balance of simple humor and age-old wisdom that’ll have one not only laughing out loud, but also pondering the way in which viewers express their own concern, love, and affection towards their friends. Again, this film is relatively short and could almost be considered a TV episode; however, one thing Winnie the Pooh isn’t short on is feeling. There’s no doubt you’ll at least reminisce with child-like innocence this feast of feeling as it plays out before your eyes.
The 1080p video is simply gorgeous with bright, bold, beautiful colors pulled from a storybook and brought to life on the screen. As images of the characters and the Hundred Acre Wood smoothly and seamlessly flow across the screen, viewers will be amazed at the crisp, clear, and clean visuals. The integration of the story’s words with the story’s characters is both original and imaginative and plays wonderfully to the film’s theme of a simpler time in storytelling. Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround track projects the voices, soundtrack, music, and sound effects effortlessly. Compared to many modern children’s movie releases which seem to use a variety of sound effects across the full speaker range and dynamically charge the audience into a fervor of sorts, Winnie the Pooh’s soundtrack is graceful, intentional, and immersive, subtlety challenging the listener to engage in its particulars. From the buzzing of bees and an over-excited Tigger bouncing around to the narrator (a brilliant John Cleese) leading us along for the ride, the audio is simply perfect.
As for special features, the blu-ray includes a solid assortment, including a 9 minute "Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too", which reveals the origins of the fan-favorite cartoon bear; 15 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, and two shorts - "The Ballad of Nessie" (which was included with the theatrical release) and "Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Pooh's Balloon" (featuring a short tale with Pooh, Christopher Robin, and a blue balloon). Other bonus features include a "Disney Song Selection," which provides viewers the option to watch the film's many musical numbers with words (karaoke-style), including "Winnie the Pooh Theme Song," "The Tummy Song," "A Very Important Thing to Do," "The Backson Song," "It's Gonna Be Great," "Everything is Honey" and "The Winner Song Finale"; a "Sing Along with the Movie" option (which allows viewers to actually sing along with these songs during the movie); and "Creating the Perfect Winnie the Pooh Nursery," which is a must watch for any soon-to-be parents who want to theme their newborn's room on Pooh. Lastly there are a number of Sneak Peaks at upcoming releases as well.
Again, for children of all ages, Winnie the Pooh is an enjoyable, entertaining, one hour escape to a time and place where life is easier, problem-solving is fun, and the worst enemy one has to contend with is an upset stomach and a lost tail. So what if reality is nothing like the Hundred Acre Wood and your friends are no where near as loyal or fun as Piglet and Tigger? Most of us will never know what it's like to chase a balloon or pin a co-co clock on a donkey's rear end. But we can all experience it for a brisk, all too short 63 minutes and bask in the glow of love, joy, and peace that comes from knowing what it's like to be a stuffed bear with a stomach full of honey and a heart of gold.
Winnie the Pooh is available now on Disney blu-ray and DVD wherever fine home video are sold.
- Jess C. Horsley
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley