Welcome to the Disney Revival Rundown! This week, we at Rotoscopers are analyzing some of the most recent Disney animated films and looking at what makes each one so great. At the end of the series we will have a fan vote to determine which film is the best of them all!
is one of those neglected films in the Disney animated canon that few have seen (or in this case, even know exists), but should be required viewing. In the story of the Disney Revival, the film doesn’t follow the stylistic progression like the other films chronologically do. On all accounts, it seems to go backward: it’s hand-drawn and it’s sixty-four minutes. And yet, that’s what perhaps makes
most endearing: It feels like it comes from a different era. It’s a slice of decades-ago animation, infused with a narrative that does not necessitate CGI, plot twists, flashy visuals, and inappropriate humor to tell a good story. That’s not to advocate against computers; it’s simply to say that
does not at all scream 2011. While its release may not have been what Disney (or anyone) expected, it will be looked back on as a special film.
This is in part because the movie was a collaboration of great minds from different periods of Disney history. Its directorial duo was Stephen Anderson, who helmed 2007’s
. As opposed to the many dissimilarities of those two films, the constant between them, and what is brought to
by both directors, is sincerity of heart. This is complemented by story supervision from Burny Mattinson, whose Pooh roots go back to being an animator on
in 1977. Animators included Disney’s greatest, fresh off work on
, including Mark Henn for Pooh and Andreas Deja for Tigger. Musically, the film borrows iconic melodies by the Sherman Brothers and adds new songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who, you probably don’t need to be told, next worked on
‘s Oscar-winning soundtrack. This film has an impressive roster and a unique blend of old and new. Everyone’s resumes shine with brilliance. And yet,
is a sorrowed forgotten page of Disney history. Let’s see if we can find out why.
was first announced at the inaugural D23 Expo in 2009. In a mega-weekend that also included major announcements of New Fantasyland and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, this was the icing on the cake: the continuation of hand-drawn animation.
, scheduled for release holiday 2009, would not be Disney’s last foray into this classic medium. Score! Even more interesting, the film would give Walt Disney Animation Studios a swing at something it seldom had the privilege of crafting: a sequel. It’s true there have been dozens of Disney sequels over the years, but almost all of them were developed by DisneyToon Studios, a separate entity from WDAS. Before
rightfully doesn’t really follow any continual storyline set in motion by its predecessors, but rather serves as a natural ‘further adventures,’ per se. It’s something that coexists with what came before it from WDAS, but dismisses anything that other branches of Disney added to the mix over the years (like Lumpy the heffalump or Darby the little girl).
For Disney, 2011 became the year of the franchise. Its tentpole releases nearly all surged toward a pre-existing set of characters. Among them were
a guaranteed box-office smash for the following summer). This was a year when, whether intentionally or not, Disney closely examined many of its current properties and experimented with how familiar characters could best be used.
‘s first and only trailer, released in November 2010, hinted at an authentic approach, something intended not to reinvent its cast but return them to their original roots, from visual style to screenplay.
, the story does not end so happily, for three main reasons. First, the franchise is one that Disney had all but beaten to death to its preschool demographic. 1997 through 2007 saw three theatrical releases, (at least) three direct-to-DVD feature films, and two television series surrounding Pooh and friends, all clearly geared toward the 5-and-under age group. Pooh is one of those evergreen characters that can continually be implemented into new projects because he is a time-tested success, and over the course of the first part of the new millennium became an established staple for Disney’s preschool market. To that target, he is unanimously popular. The problem came in broadening the character’s appeal to an audience that (rightfully) associated him with preschoolers.
, a film created with the whole family in mind. The 2011 film is a delightful production that
be appealing across age groups, but did not get the viewership it deserved because of Disney’s struggle to negate the grave it had already dug for the franchise.
released to theaters on July 15, 2011, the exact same day as
. Yes, the final installment in perhaps the most adored cinematic phenomenon of our generation. Even if both titles had different surface-level audience targets, Disney immediately alienated any potential bigger audience it might have had. As beloved as Pooh is, given the choice, what is the average person going to choose? Harry Potter, every time. This drastically narrowed the potential reach
And then there is, of course, the third argument, whether it is valid or not, that hand-drawn animation does not compete well in a market that has become unaccustomed to it.
All three of these points come together to sadly leave
to history. But, I feel the release date is probably the most significant. I really don’t know what the logic was there. What’s disappointing is that this film had the potential to be a game-changer not just for Disney, but for all of animation. If it has become a financial success, it could have led to not only more hand-drawn projects, but projects revitalizing other old characters with WDAS’s level of care. Whatever futures both of these directions could have had was misrepresented by a faulty release date.
received an impressive 90% score from Rotten Tomatoes, but earned just $44 million at the box office and didn’t generate much attention during award season. Pooh and friends have not been used in any significant capacity since, while Disney Animation’s hand-drawn efforts have been limited to short films.
is a wonderful movie and a true testament to the power of strong character development. The story doesn’t take us to great emotional depths, but it doesn’t have to. Instead, it takes the core of each character’s personality, which at this point are now revered archetypes, and plays to each character’s most endearing qualities. Eeyore and Rabbit, in particular, are perfect. The script is laced with hysterical wordplay, whether coming from Pooh’s misinterpretation of big words or the way the story unfolds in a literal storybook, complete with narrator and text attributing to the action. It’s a brilliant tour de force. The sequence with the characters trapped in the pit is among Disney Animation’s wittiest dialogue; a real riot.
While its historical outcome is disappointing, it does not negate
from being a shining point worthy to sit alongside its Disney Revival siblings. It oozes with genuine care from its filmmakers to intentionally take the audience back in time to a place of reverent innocence and inexplicable charm.
, as a stand-alone film and a chess piece of animation history? Where would you rank it in our Disney Revival Rundown?
Oh, bother. I have to watch this. I loved the books growing up but never saw any movies or TV shows.
Very Underrated film, has one of the most charming villain songs, the backson. Saw it on Disney Channel in the middle of the day. Really good film. Shared the same fate as Rescuers Down Under.
PS y did u knot rite the pose like tis. Wouda bin funy
I firmly believe that Disney put Winnie the Pooh’s release on Harry Potter’s date on purpose, so this can fail, so they can use 2D animation as the scapegoat. It was/is very clear that Disney didn’t/doesn’t want to do any more 2D movies by how long it took for them to cancel 2D movies. Too bad because if Frozen was still 2D, you can bet that Giants and Moana would be 2D.
I only saw it for the first time last month. I admired the animation and music but honestly I don’t remember much about the story.
When I first watched it, I thought it was boring and didn’t watch it really. But I think I will try it again.
I love this movie. When I saw the trailer for the first time in theaters I was overjoyed. The music, the atmosphere made me want to jump up and down. Then I remembered I was in a movie theater so yeah I couldn’t do that. XD I’m glad that during the CGI/2D line up that Disney was smart enough to do this in 2D. Granted if it was the other way around maybe more people would’ve been interested but really I think that would have taken away the magic. And really that’s what 2D is to me; Magic. Even if this really is the very last traditional animated film Disney makes I’m glad they went on a high note with this nostalgic blast from the past.
I specifically remember when I was walking into the theater to see Harry Potter 8, I was thinking “gee, I wonder how many people are actually seeing Winnie the Pooh tonight.” Obviously not many. Total boneheaded move by Disney – I wonder if they were secretly trying to give 2D animation the ax so they could stick with CGI films…
I saw the movie on demand a couple years ago and really liked how stylistically old-fashioned it was – the only song I can remember from it though was the Backson song, which I LOVED the visuals for. It might not have been nearly as good as “Many Adventures”, but I should give it a second watch for a better comparison.
I remember seeing this and it was a good movie. I had a good day, also because I lost a tooth the same day.
I’m probably one of the few people to really dislike this movie and the main reason for that is because I feel they stole so many plot elements from ‘Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin’.
I agree with you that the bad release date for this affected its not so good performance at the box office. But, I was reading a blogger blog about this movie and he put forth another opinion that I personally think is plausible too. His opinion for why this movie didn’t do well was that the average moviegoers don’t know the difference between a film in the Disney Canon and a regular Disney film!
For the Disney fans, the Disney Canon is the piece de resistance of Disney films and the films we look forward to every year they come out. They’re the films from Snow White to Big Hero 6 presently, with Winnie the Pooh being amongst them. And in terms of Pooh movies, only 2 are part of the Canon: ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ and this film, ‘Winnie the Pooh’.
But, there have been other Pooh movies released theatrically that weren’t very good: ‘Pooh’s Heffalump Movie’, ‘Piglet’s Big Movie’, etc. as well as other non-theatrical Pooh movies: ‘Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie’, ‘Springtime with Roo’, etc.
So, the blogger put forth the theory that when this movie came out, people associated it with “It’s just another one of those Pooh movies” as opposed to “Hey, this is a Pooh movie from the Disney Canon” and he says that’s another reason why it didn’t do well in the box office.
I disagree that Piglet’s Big Movie was a poorly done film – I think it accomplished successfully what this film failed, which is recontextualize the Milne stories in a connected way, instead of the anthology approach of the original Disney Pooh shorts.
This may seem like nitpicking, but the “Disney Canon” is simply the set of feature-length movies produced by WDAS. It’s not a matter of how good the movies might be, which is based on subjective opinion anyway, but the specific studio that made them. Granted, WDAS is the storied original Disney animation studio–the first in the world to produce animated features that are recognizably mainstream American movies–and they’re expected to make top quality movies and are funded accordingly, but the Canon is still just their movies, good and bad alike. This is nothing that you don’t already well know, but you sort of made it seem like something else. Sorry for the nitpick.
Anyway, I agree that the public–and even some animation fans–are largely unaware of which production studio made which “Disney” movie, despite the opening titles being clear about this. Because WDAS used to be all of Disney they had never been given their own identity before this century, and have now sort of become lost among all of Disney’s other studios and the general Disney branding. The name change to Walt Disney Animation Studios and the creation of an intro sequence have done little to remedy this, as people can’t tell them apart from DisneyToon Studios by name alone (only people like us), and the name is sufficiently generic that I bet some people consider Pixar one of Disney’s animation studios under that banner. In addition, I’ve gotten the impression that more than a few people out there have forgotten that WDAS even exists anymore at all, and the switch to CGI has greatly bolstered this. I’ve actually gotten into a number of debates with people over who actually produced WDAS’ last several movies. One time I had to provide a recently-dated photo of the studio facility (the Roy E. Disney building or “hat” building) and the staff posing in front of it to prove that Frozen and Big Hero 6 weren’t made by Pixar. Then on several occasions people argued that maybe WDAS made the designs and stories, but Pixar actually animated these movies. Outside of the Disney fandom, WDAS might as well be a new, unknown studio.
I have to say I disagree that this was a triumph. It was a fun film, but both animation and writing were out of continuity with previous Winnie the Pooh films, and while the songs were fun, none of them were as memorable as Carly Simon or Kenny Loggins efforts for Piglet’s Big Movie or The Tigger Movie. Additionally, the film wasn’t nearly as emotionally rewarding as those previous films, even though it tried to accomplish a similar “adapt original Milne stories” approach as the Piglet film.
Sad to say it was “avada kedavaraed”, as in “nuked”, by Harry Potter. A lot of kids today really wanna go for the dark stuff.
While the movie is cute, full of old-school charm, and has a lot of things going for it, it doesn’t really do much of anything or go anywhere with the characters. Despite its positive qualities, it’s not something that most people would pay to see at the movie theater. Maybe if this were the first Winnie the Pooh movie they would, but it’s been done before, several times over. It’s a shame that all of the work and care that went into it is almost completely being overlooked, but it’s not surprising.
With how expensive tickets are, I certainly wouldn’t cough up 11$ to see something that’s a little over an hour long.
Releasing WTP the same day was Harry Potter 7.2 was ridiculous, almost as if on purpose. Quel dommage.
On the other hand, I cannot knot stop singing “The Backson Song”. The Lopez’s should’ve gotten a Best Song Oscar nom for that. It’s so engaging and the wordplay is impressive. Simply incredible! ^_^
I have to disagree, this was the first Winnie the Pooh movie I saw and it was fantastic and original. It just so cute and funny. I just fell in love with this Pooh character at first sight.
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