AA Milne’s rotund bear, immortalised in the illustrations of EH Shepard, celebrates his 85th anniversary this year.
Our affection for Winnie The Pooh hasn’t diminished with time and Stephen Anderson and Don Hall’s delightful animated feature ensures that the residents of Hundred Acre Wood will enchant a new generation.
Crucially, the film effortlessly charms young viewers, but will also have parents laughing out loud as the eponymous bear goes in search of honey and gets into various scrapes.
In a neat stylistic flourish, the story unfolds on the pages of AA Milne’s book, which provides the animators with some cute opportunities for gags.
The narrator (John Cleese) shakes the page to wake up Pooh (Jim Cummings) and eventually turns the book upside down to fling the snoozing bear from his bed.
When Piglet (Travis Oates) clatters into one sentence, sending letters cascading down on to Eeyore (Bud Luckey), Tigger (Cummings again), Rabbit (Tom Kenny), Owl (Craig Ferguson), Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and Roo (Wyatt Hall), Pooh cleverly uses the fallen vowels and consonants to help his chums out of a predicament.
And as Pooh ambles from one page to the next in search for honey to feed his growling belly, the narrator quips, “He was so distracted that he didn’t notice he was walking on to the next paragraph.”
The first half of the film concerns the search for Eeyore’s missing tail.
Then Owl misinterprets a note from Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) – “Gone out. Bizy, Back soon” - and the whole gang embarks on a daredevil expedition to track down a wild beast called the Backson, which comes roaring to life in vibrant chalk drawings on Owl’s blackboard.
Each escapade is accompanied by original songs composed by Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen that are as bouncy and energetic as Tigger, including a dream sequence which has Pooh extolling his favourite food: “I can’t get enough of the sticky, licky stuff!”
The delightful main feature barely lingers for 60 minutes so Disney has bolstered the running time with two amusing and very different animated shorts.
Cubby’s Goldfish introduces young viewers to the Disney Junior television show Jake And The Never Land Pirates, in which Jake and his chums Izzy and Cubby rescue a kidnapped fish from Captain Hook.
Audience participation is encouraged – remember to shout the pirate password “Yo Ho Ho” at the screen – and educates tykes to use “coconuts” as a swear word.
The second short, The Ballad Of Nessie, brings to life the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and her rubber duck, McQuack.
“She was really a wee softie with no bark or no bite” coos narrator Billy Connolly, whose rhyming couplets conclude that sometimes it’s OK to cry.
A lesson for us all.