Before the 2010s, the only Disney animated sequels released in the cinema were The Rescuers Down Under and Fantasia 2000. Beginning with the 2011 release of Winnie the Pooh, Disney would end up releasing a further three sequels – two of which to films I have yet to cover for this blog. It marks a bit of a change in tactic for their releases, but something tells me I’ll be more cynical on this point after seeing Frozen 2.
With the first Winnie the Pooh film they adapted some stories from A.A. Milne’s original book and gave it a bit of a meta-twist by having the characters be aware of the narrator and being able to use the letters in the book as platforms to walk on or (in the case of Tigger in the final story) a slide after he became stuck in a tree. In this 2011 release, they instead used his works as inspiration for three stories told within 63 minutes (which also makes this the shortest of all the Disney animated theatrical features).
Instead of just making a sequel to the 1977 film, Winnie the Pooh finds a way to recapture the feeling of the older feel whilst updating some of the humour and the interactions to make it more modern. In terms of characters and the interactions, nothing much has changed in the 34 years with two interesting exceptions:
- Rabbit has become a bit less fussy and is now able to more freely take part in the silliness
- Eeyore is far more integrated with the central group, with them making more effort to keep him included when showing his more depressive symptoms.
These changes never feel like a true deviation from the character, but a slight tweak to make them more relatable and, in the case of Eeyore, continue to promote the positive message of still including your friends even if they have depressive episodes.
As I mentioned in previous posts, Winnie the Pooh has the sad distinction of being the final entry in the Disney Animated Canon to have been animated using traditional hand-drawn methods. I, for one, am so glad they was never an option for this as a digital Pooh and Piglet would have taken away from the magic of this film and would have made it feel (more so) like a cash in of one of Disney’s most popular franchises.
In the end though, Winnie the Pooh is a darling film and of those that you can turn to when you need a pick-me-up but only have an hour. It’s like that warm hug with a twee soundtrack and friends from childhood that you never really knew you needed but are happy to have. Kinda makes it a complete contrast to the lights and blinking sounds of the next film on the list: Wreck-It Ralph.