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Winnie the Pooh

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // October 25, 2011 // Region 0
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 24, 2011 | E-mail the Author
There's no flashy, boisterous computer animation. No overcranked, hypercaffeinated sensory overload. No stuntcasting for voices just so Disney could put a
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famous name in big, bold letters on the poster. No potty humor or lazy pop culture references. No teen-electro-synth pop confections on the soundtrack. No edgy redesigns with faux-hawks or iPhones. No stabs at subverting these iconic characters by dragging them out of their storybook bliss and into the harsh reality of the real world. When Disney decided to bring Winnie the Pooh back to the silver screen, they didn't update or reimagine much of anything, really. They just took everything that children have adored so much about Pooh and his friends for generations now and did it really, really well.

Winnie the Pooh weaves together a few simple stories. For starters, Pooh has a rumbly tummy but is fresh out of honey. He'd ask his friends if he could borrow some, but...well, it's kind of a hectic day in the Hundred Acre Wood. Eeyore's tail has gone missing, and everyone bands together to find him a brand new one to take its place. It's just that they're fresh out of tails, so they each try plugging on different things to see what'd be a good fit. Christopher Robin joins in on that fun, but not all that long afterwards, he vanishes! A mysterious note left behind makes it sound like it could be the sinister handiwork of the Backson. Pooh and his pals cobble together a scheme to rescue Christopher Robin, but -- oops! -- they wind up getting caught in their own trap.

I'm bursting at the seams over how much I love, love, love this movie. Winnie the Pooh is far and away my favorite animated film of the year. Its gentle yet witty sense of humor left me
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laughing more than any comedy I've watched all year, and its pace is so brisk and breezy that my big, beaming smile never faded. Winnie the Pooh makes the most of its very simple threads of a plot, using them mostly as an excuse to pal around with characters the writers and animators cleary adore so much. Every character is overflowing with personality and gets plenty of time to shine. The movie nimbly bounds from one clever, imaginative idea to another, never losing sight that it's Pooh and his friends that we all love. The storytelling's wonderful, and one of its greatest strengths is that it knows when to slink into the background and get out of the way. Winnie the Pooh is very much like a childhood storybook brought to life, and...well, I kind of mean that literally too since the words of the story are actual, physical objects that Pooh and his friends scurry up, stumble into, and bounce across. The hand-drawn animation is a knockout, faithfully preserving the pencil-sketched edges to the linework from the classic Pooh adventures we all know and love, and I'm in awe of just how expressive it is. The voices have changed but very much capture the spirit of those earlier adaptations as well. Most of all, though, Winnie the Pooh is fun. It's a movie so cute and gentle that I'd happily share it with my youngest relatives, and yet it's so well-made and so funny that I love it as a thirtysomething-year-old adult.

Honestly, I can't think of a movie I've seen this year -- animated or live-action! -- that I adore anywhere near as much as Winnie the Pooh. It so brilliantly captures the magic, wonder, and heart of a classic Disney film that it feels as if I've been flung back in time. Winnie the Pooh isn't just a kids' movie; it's a family film in the truest sense of the word, so warm and funny that it plays beautifully if you're two or eighty-two. Very, very Highly Recommended.

Geez, I can't get over just how gorgeous Winnie the Pooh looks in high definition. The animation is spectacularly crisp and well-defined, boasting very fine linework that takes full advantage of the resolution and clarity that Blu-ray has at its fingertips. You could say this for just about everything with Winnie the Pooh's visual style too, but its beautifully saturated colors look like something straight out of a storybook. Because this is a direct digital transfer, there aren't any flecks of dust or grit to get in the way, and no filtering or awkward processing crept in during the authoring of the disc either. Even with as short as Winnie the Pooh is, Disney has given the movie plenty of space to lounge around on this Blu-ray disc, so there aren't any hiccups in the compression either. It's perfect.

If you're curious how this high definition presentation of Winnie the Pooh stacks up next to the DVD, I snapped a few comparison shots. Click on any of these thumbnails to pop them open to full-size:

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Winnie the Pooh and its extras span both layers of this BD-50 disc. The movie is presented without any matting on Blu-ray to reveal an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and the video has been encoded with AVC. The DVD in the set is in anamorphic widescreen.

Boasting a six-channel, 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, Winnie the Pooh sounds just about as terrific on Blu-ray as it looks too. The voice acting behind Pooh and his friends is rendered with crystal clarity, and every line of that dialogue is balanced flawlessly in the mix. There are a few scattered sound effects that grab hold of the subwoofer, like a stomping Backson and a crash of lightning, along with Eeyore's bassy drone. Buzzing bees and hunny hallucinations are among a couple of the effects that fill the surround channels. For the most part, though, the rears and the LFE are reserved for reinforcing Winnie the Pooh's infectiously bouncy soundtrack. Along with an orchestral score by Henry Jackman, there are also a bunch of songs performed by She & Him's Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. Sweet, gentle, buoyant, and timeless, the music couldn't be more of a perfect fit for Winnie the Pooh.

Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish as well as a Descriptive Video Service track. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), French, and Spanish. The technical specs on the DVD are similar, only swapping out the lossless soundtrack in favor of Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

A few of the extras are exclusive to Blu-ray:
  • Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too (9 min.; HD): This Blu-ray disc's making-of featurette tackles just about everything you need to know about Pooh history: A.A. Milne's pair of books, Disney's slew of featurettes
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    in the '60s and '70s, and this most recent revival on the big screen. You also get a quick introduction to Burny Mattinson, a veteran animator at Disney who worked on the original Pooh featurettes and also contributed to the storyboards here. There's also a brief peek at the real-life Hundred Acre Wood in East Sussex, England. There are glimpses of the voice actors at work, and I wish this behind-the-scenes piece would've shown more of that. I'm also a bit disappointed that there isn't anything about the terrific music showcased throughout the film. Still, it's a nice overview of all things Pooh, and those high definition peeks at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh leaves me hoping a Blu-ray release for that isn't too far off.

  • Disney Song Selection: This feature lets you leap directly to six of the songs featured throughout Winnie the Pooh.

  • Sing Along with the Movie: Christopher Robin's red balloon floats over the lyrics for all of the songs in the film to help you sing along.

The rest of the extras can be found on both the DVD and the Blu-ray disc.
  • Deleted Scenes (15 min.; HD): This reel of deleted scenes is a mix of polished animation, snippets that are fully animated but uncolored, pencil tests, and rough animatics. These include a longer version of "The Tummy Song", an extended introduction to Eeyore, an alternate intro to Tigger that pays homage to "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day", and Pooh poking around his house to find just the right new tail for Eeyore. The most noteworthy addition is a peek at Rabbit's friends and relations, a gaggle of hungry critters from the original Pooh books. Directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall introduce each of these scenes and explain why they were trimmed down or yanked out of the finished film.

    The Blu-ray disc features all five of those scenes; I'm not sure why, but the DVD doesn't include the alternate introductions to Eeyore and Tigger.

  • Creating the Perfect Winnie the Pooh Nursery (3 min.; HD): A couple of baby planners show you how to make the perfect Pooh-themed nursery, from colors to cribs to creativity.

  • Additional Shorts (9 min.; HD): "The Ballad of Nessie", which played before Winnie the Pooh in theatres, has also found its way to home video. This animated nursery rhyme with a Scottish
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    brogue tells the story of Nessie, a warm-hearted critter whose heart breaks when her pond is turned into a tacky golf resort. Nessie sure does have a tough time finding a new home, but...well, sometimes good things come from being sad like that.

    The three minute short "Pooh's Balloon" is a cute, simple story about everyone's favorite fluff-stuffed bear soaring upward on a balloon in search of honey. Rather than sticking with the same polished style as the feature film, the animation here looks a bit more like a watercolor storybook brought to life.

There are a few different releases of Winnie the Pooh floating around on DVD and Blu-ray. There's a single disc DVD set, for one. The version reviewed here is a DVD and Blu-ray combo pack, packaged in a standard size DVD case with an embossed slipcover. Finally, there's a three-disc set in a smaller Blu-ray case, featuring a DVD, a Blu-ray disc, and a digital copy. The Blu-ray disc is region-free, but it looks like the DVD is coded to region 1.

Tucked inside the case is a "Pin the Tail on Eeyore" game.

The Final Word
Winnie the Pooh is exactly what a family movie ought to be. The talented folks who've brought Pooh and his friends back to the big screen didn't hire a small army of distractingly famous faces to field the voice work, they didn't dumb down its sense of humor to be more modern and edgy, and they didn't do anything gimmicky like try to shove these characters out of the Hundred Acre Wood and into the dingy streets of Manhattan or whatever. No, this revival instead grabs hold of everything that's always been so endearing about Pooh and just does it better than it's ever been done before. Winnie the Pooh is cute, gentle, clever, and charming: a movie I'd cheerfully watch with my youngest relatives or enjoy by myself. Propelled by gorgeous hand-drawn animation, a wonderful sense of humor, and some infectiously bouncy music, Winnie the Pooh is in the running as my favorite movie of the year, period. Highly Recommended.

Discounts and Deals
Disney has a $5 off coupon for the 3-disc Blu-ray combo pack.
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Highly Recommended

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