Winnie the Pooh is a story about a teddy bear, Pooh, having adventures with his stuffed animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. As he searches for honey to calm his "rumbly tummy," he gets entangled within a quest to save his friend Christopher Robin from the "Back-son" and a search to find Eeyore's (his donkey friend) missing tail.
Given the story synopsis, you might get the impression that there is not a lot going on here. This film, however, is deceptively simple. There are layers of ingenuity that go can easily go unnoticed. For instance, the world in which this takes place exists in its own "reality". It's established early on that these characters are figments of Christopher Robin's imagination and the Hundred Acre Wood is an escape for him. What is truly notable though is that all of the adventures take place within a storybook.
The storybook aesthetic lends itself to some truly ingenious moments. The characters constantly play with the boundaries of their world. Pooh exchanges words with the narrator, the narrator shakes around the book to move Pooh, and several of the film's best moments involve the characters interacting with the words of the storybook and rearranging reality to their liking. Because of the storybook, it comes of as a love letter to Winnie the Pooh's literary origins as well as its animated predecessors.
Speaking of animation, this film is absolutely gorgeous. I am a huge advocate of 2D animation (and was one of the people who got angry when Tangled was CG), and its nice to see that Disney has not completely forgotten about it. There's a certain charm that can only come through hand drawn animation. Every frame takes significantly more effort to produce, and because of that, each frame of animation carries love within it. There's a distinct flow that can only come from it.
The care put into the animation flows into every other aspect of this film. Earlier in this article, I used the terms "deceptively simple" to describe this film. Here, there is a complex simplicity as each moment with these characters is expansively thought out and planned. The details are meticulously placed within the dialogue especially, catering to an audience of all ages.
There is lots of wordplay (especially puns) within the dialogue that kids might not appreciate completely. It is mainly there for the adults, like myself, who want to bask in the nostalgia without losing the sense of wonder they once experienced in the Hundred Acre Wood. One particular incident, early on, is when Pooh talks with Owl and Owl uses the word "issue". Pooh hilariously thinks Owl sneezes and "gesundheits" him for it. That moment does not overstay its welcome as it is soon replaced by new jokes.
The meticulous planning lends itself to a truly great hour of entertainment (that's right, an hour). The film's short span time forces each moment to be fun and memorable. When it released during the summer, a fun movie was exactly what was needed during a season of explosions and sequels.
Winnie the Pooh had the potential to be the greatest film of 2011, but no one saw it. I'm giving it an award for awesomeness, really. It really needs the recognition and appreciation that go with it. At the very least, an award would get more folks to go rent the DVD and see it.
So please if you have not seen Winnie the Pooh, see it. If you have already seen it, see it again. If you do not want to see it, see it anyway. It's only an hour out of your day, and that is not a huge concession.
Trust me, it will be the greatest hour...ever.