Disney plays it old school

“Oh bother,” said Winnie the Pooh as he pulled his red shirt over his furry tummy, which was still round even though it was as empty as his hunny jar.

Millions of hand-drawn images later

Millions of hand-drawn images later

Winnie the Pooh

3 stars (out of 4)

Rated: G

“Oh bother,” said Winnie the Pooh as he pulled his red shirt over his furry tummy, which was still round even though it was as empty as his hunny jar.

“Movies for children today are all computer-generated talking animals and 3-D magic. How can a stuffed bear of very little brain survive in the busy, blustery world of the multiplex?”

Pooh puzzled as he peered into his hunny jars and, with a sigh, found them all empty. “I know. I’ll go ask Christopher Robin. Maybe he’ll have some hunny, too.”

“Silly old bear,” replied Christopher Robin as he bent down to Pooh-eye level. “People will love a story of a real stuffed bear told without CGI tricks and fancy machines.

“The hand-drawn animation looks just like the old-fashioned watercolour-and-ink drawings from the first time people saw you at the movies in 1966 and then on TV. Winnie the Pooh will make big people remember their childhoods. And small people will have fun getting to know all of us in the Hundred Acre Wood. You’ll see.”

Pooh listened to Christopher Robin because he was very smart. He was also hopeful there might be some hunny involved. Tigger, Kanga and Roo, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit and even Owl, who is also very clever, agreed that a simple movie based on the beloved 1926 children’s book by A. A. Milne would be just the thing for youngsters looking for a summer diversion.

It’s made by Disney, the same studio that released the first Winnie the Pooh animated featurette. And the cleverest person of all at Disney and Pixar — someone even smarter than Owl, a wizard named John Lasseter — is behind the adventure.

The only extra sounds aren’t car engines or robots, they’re songs (and the occasional rumbly in Pooh’s tumbly), some sung and even written by Zooey Deschanel, an actress who is also a fine singer indeed when it comes to songs for children.

Her voice is quite sweet. “Like hunny?” asked Pooh hopefully, for he was very hungry, still having had no breakfast.

Pooh’s quest for hunny sends him into new adventures based on three old stories about Winnie the Pooh, all contained within one very busy day in the Hundred Acre Wood.

First, there is the lack of hunny. (“Oh bother,” contributed Pooh.) Then there is a contest to make a new tail for Eeyore, who needs one very badly, having lost his.

Then the friends find a note from Christopher Robin: “Gone out. Busy. Back soon.” Owl, who is the best reader among them, says this means Christopher Robin has been captured by the fearsome and not-very-nice-smelling Backson! All the creatures must work together to save him at once.

Kanga says what makes this day in the Hundred Acre Wood so wonderful is that you’ll feel you have been here before, even if you haven’t.

It looks like a book come to life — in fact Pooh and his friends often climb words or get caught in tumbling sentences.

“I always get caught on things,” grumbled Eeyore. “I expect it to happen. Never happens to anyone else. Just me.”

Roo says he’s happy his friends sound just like they did back in the olden days of the 1960s and 1970s.

Even though the original voice of Pooh, Sterling Holloway and the first Tigger, Paul Winchell, and all the other voices are no longer here, the souls they put into those characters still remain.

Jim Cummings sounds exactly like them when he voices Tigger and Pooh. When he’s in Kanga’s pouch, Roo thinks it sounds just like the old gang from the wood is there with him.

“Hey, I thought I was the only one!” said Tigger about his new voice. “Sounds like there’s an imposterater in the area.”

Owl, who has late-night TV host Craig Ferguson for his voice, assured Tigger he was indeed the only one, a sentiment repeated by John Cleese, who narrates their adventure.

Piglet, who tries very hard to be b-b-b-brave, was glad the movie was only 69 minutes long, just in case the Backson did show up. And Rabbit, who seems to have become a bit more relaxed about things these days — although not too relaxed — liked the short cartoon that plays before Winnie the Pooh, a funny poem about the Loch Ness Monster and her best pal MacQuack, called Ode to Nessie. That man from Scotland, Billy Connolly, tells the story.

It even made Eeyore smile, just a wee bit. But he did smile. Truly.

“That’s quite a thing,” said Pooh. “A very busy day with nice voices and lovely pictures, some songs and adventures, and even a smile from Eeyore. Even a small one. We should celebrate with some hunny. If only I had some. Oh bother.”

Linda Barnard is a syndicated movie critic for The Toronto Star.