November 16, 2011

Justify My Netflix: Winnie the Pooh (2011)

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Today's movie: Winnie the Pooh, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Well, first, because out of all the cartoon projects of my childhood, it was the 1960s Disney adaptations of this Early Modernist series of children's books (published piecemeal from 1924 to 1928) that I was most legitimately obsessed with, so it's almost guaranteed that I will at least at some point check out every new Pooh project that comes along; and now add that this is the first fully realized project from Disney Animation (now formally known as the Walt Disney Animation Studios) since John Lasseter took it over as part of The Great PIXAR Sale of 2006, of which PIXAR obviously came out ahead. (They got an obscene amount of money, maintained all creative control, and all their executives replaced their Disney counterparts, almost unheard of when a smaller company gets purchased by a larger one.) Let's not forget, only months before this merger, the former Disney execs had infamously declared the end of traditional animation at their studio; not only did Lasseter quickly repeal this, he boldly stated his intention to make it the premier showcase on the planet for fine-tuned craftsmanship and true dedication to storytelling, with this new-but-retro adaptation being the first project created from scratch since this declaration.

The reality: Ah, so this is what Lasseter meant! THANK GOD! Because let's not forget, as little as five years ago, it was thought by most that only cheap CGI "Shrek" knockoffs would be able to save Disney from financial ruin, in an era of PIXAR, Dreamworks, and such a near-total domination of the industry by now of computer-generated effects. What Pooh proves is that a niche path can actually be cut out of this CGI swampland, especially doable precisely because of this being Disney; after all, there's practically a golden mythology already built about the studio's legendary dedication to craftsmanship, so all a Lasseter-led Disney team needs to do is play that up, very specifically by putting out the kind of blessedly quiet, slow, beautiful cartoons that are nearly impossible to find anymore among any single major movie studio left. In this case, I think it was smart of Lasseter to start with a proven but lesser-known existing Disney property, and to do (let's be honest) a brand-new yet virtually identical adaptation of the original '60s featurettes, spicing up the details but otherwise heavily relying on the book's Edwardian charm, and the original cartoons' Late-Modernist look and laid-back pace; because this very clearly sets the tone for what he wants Disney Animation to become, in a way that's easy to understand and not too challenging, so that when they start putting out much better and I'm assuming more challenging contemporary stories in the future, the audience will be ready for them and known much more what to expect. It's almost a crime that this movie did so poorly when originally at the theaters, and I encourage all smart parents to rent this out and show your support for thoughtful, gentle, slowly-paced charmers like these.

Strangest piece of trivia: This is only the fourth full-length sequel to a "classic"-style Disney movie in the division's history, joining The Three Caballeros, Fantasia/2000 and The Rescuers Down Under.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:06 AM, November 16, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |