In 10 Words or Less
A musical adventure for a bear stuffed with CG puff
Likes: Winnie the Pooh
Dislikes: CG Pooh Bear
Hates: The Darby era of Winnie the Pooh
I'm definitely not the only one who felt disappointed when Disney pulled a Poochie on the Winnie the Pooh franchise and swapped out old-school, somewhat sedate human Christopher Robin for a more extreme, boisterous grrrl named Darby, as part of a modernizing of the property that also included changing from traditional animation to the more popular computer-animation style. For someone who grew up on the Pooh Bear's style of gentle adventures, this stirred up a sense of "this is not what I'm used to," along with a tinge of betrayal. As a result, my daughter has only watched the classic pen- and-ink iteration of the characters with me. But, in order to know if something truly tastes bad, you must actually taste it, so I have now checked out the show, and unfortunately, my opinion has not changed.
This feature film from the My Friends Winnie and Tigger series (in actuality a long-length episode, since 60 minutes doesn't make a feature, no matter what the Epic Movie franchise has shown us) catches the characters at a picnic pulled together by a tyrannical Rabbit, who loves order and rules. The worst thing you can do with someone who loves power is give them more, which is just what the 100 Acre Wood gang does when they thank Rabbit for his efforts by naming him mayor, letting loose a mad bureaucrat whose rules prevent anyone from doing what they enjoy. That rubs Tigger the wrong way, and he leads a revolt that leads Rabbit to split the Wood into two groups with a big white line, a situation that messes up friendships among the crew (and borrows from decades of sitcom plots.).
Only Super Sleuth Darby and her dog Buster are free to roam where they want to, line
be damned, so naturally they are stuck in the middle of the conflict, but, they also can provide the inspiration for solving the issue, introducing the series' mystery solving concept (an element largely abandoned here.) Their role for most of the movie instead is to lead the viewer to the various miserable denizens of the 100 Acre, illustrating how bad a despot Rabbit is, frequently in song. Even if they weren't pointing out the malaise overtaking the Wood, those numbers hardly stack up with Disney's usual level of quality, with only "Bouncin'," Tigger's big solo, coming off as a genuine song and dance number (though the opening/closing "One Big Happy Family" is a decent tune as well.) Even the big Kenny Loggins song "Underneath the Same Sky" is weak, with some of the worst lyrics heard in a kid's show.
Considering it's missing the friendship between Christopher Robin and Pooh, and a few characters, including the voice of reason, Owl, and the atmosphere of the animation has been traded for smooth CG, it should be no surprise that it doesn't feel like a Winnie the Pooh cartoon. In fact, if you took Winnie out, it would hardly affect the show at all, rendering it an overall generic bit of kiddie entertainment. The focus is on more exciting characters, and Pooh is now a sidekick in his own universe. That didn't sit well with my 3-year-old, who could barely be bothered to pay attention most of the time, which wasn't the case with the older cartoons. That sense of something special is just not there.
A one-disc release, the DVD is packaged in a standard keepcase (with the usual Disney promotional inserts) which arrives inside a foil-embossed slipcover that repeats the cover art. Options to watch the movie, select scenes, check out bonus features and adjust the set-up. Audio options include English, French and Spanish, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. As is usually the case with Disney DVDs, a FastPlay option, which negates the need for menus, and a registration link are included.
The anamorphic widescreen video on this film looks very nice, with bright, vibrant color, though it falls a bit short of what "The Backyardigans" provides in terms of the clarity and level of detail. There's some minor issues along dark edges on bright backgrounds, where noise becomes evident, but it's solid overall, with no issues with digital artifacts, and naturally no dirt or damage (since it's CG.)
The surprising inclusion of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't make for an impressive presentation, with the dialogue delivered front and centered, while the music gets a bit of a boost in the sides and rear, where some atmospheric effects also can be heard. It's not a bad track in any way, but it doesn't take advantage of the surround sound either.
The extras aren't half bad for a kids show, starting with a cute little set-top game, "Rabbit's Think Think Think Theatre." After picking a song from the film and a season, you get to fix the set by removing something that doesn't belong, before being led in a dance by Tigger, Darby and Pooh. Your choice of song will effect some of the other extras in a minor way, so feel free to pick any of the songs.
There are two alternate ways to view the film, one with automatic activities peppered throughout the movie, and the other has interactive activities, similar to the set-top game, where you select the right choice. The inserts are actually pretty well integrated with the film, but to play them, you still have to sit through the movie (unless you fast-forward.)
For those more musically inclined, you have a sing-along version of the film, with nice, big easy-to-follow subtitles during the songs, or you can watch a music video for Loggins' "Underneath the Same Sky." Things wrap up with a selection of eight promos for Disney products.
The Bottom Line
It's certainly a stretch to call this 60-minute episode a feature film, and even as just an overlong episode, it doesn't hold up all that well, with the musical numbers stretching out a hackney sitcom plot. But for kids, it's a tad more entertaining, with Tigger and all the songs. The DVD presents the show with very nice audio and video, and even throws in some nice extras that help expand the viewing experience. But with just 60 minutes of feature content, repeated returns to the disc will be hard to come by.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.