Trailer watch: is Disney's new 'Winnie the Pooh' a step too far?
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Tom Huddleston groans at the latest attempt to turn Winnie the Pooh American
One Sunday in March, the directors of Disney’s latest take on AA Milne’s perennial kids’ favourite, ‘Winnie the Pooh’, came to London to present a preview of their new film. In a just world, they would have been stopped at the airport, arrested for crimes against the Crown and hauled away to face the long arm of British law. At the very least, they should have been confronted by an angry mob of librarians, literature lovers and pre-teens when they arrived at BFI Southbank.
Of course, that’s just a comic fantasy. None of this happened. The film’s makers simply turned up, displayed evidence of their crimes to a packed audience and left unmolested. And another beloved British institution, arguably the greatest book ever written for young children, was quietly, brutally murdered. And no one lifted a finger.
Let’s get one thing clear at this point: I’ve not seen the new ‘Winnie the Pooh’. I’ve only seen the trailer. It’s entirely possible that the film does full justice to Milne’s glorious, idiosyncratic prose; that it keeps our favourite characters intact in all their lovable strangeness; that it doesn’t simply fly a balloon over the Hundred Acre Wood and urinate on it from a great height. I have, however, seen the trailer, and unless they picked all the most crass and insensitive moments from the film and stapled them together, the dream of a genuine tribute to Milne and his creations still remains a long way off.
Let’s get another thing clear: I have nothing at all against Disney, or the vast majority of their animated films. Over the past 50 years, they’ve created some hugely important, enjoyable and artistically valid works of cinema, a tradition that continues to this day. But theirs is a distinctive brand – simplistic, all-embracing, overwhelmingly optimistic, iconically American – and as such they have no more place adapting ‘Winnie the Pooh’ than Stephen Fry would have taking the lead role in a biopic of John Wayne.
One risks treading on thin ice in claiming that something is ‘inherently’ English: it implies a set of shared cultural characteristics and values that are very hard to define. But in this case, there’s simply no other way to put it: giving Winnie the Pooh an American accent is sacrilege. It was sacrilege in the 1960s, when Disney’s first run of Pooh movies were released, and it is perhaps even more so now, with cultural sensitivity supposedly on the rise.
But there’s worse in the trailer than just those awful, out-of-place aw-shucks accents: although the majority of the animation seems to shun Disney’s classic, rounded, hyper-clean style in favour of something a little more shabby and EH Shephard-ish, the Busby Berkeley song-and-dance fantasy sequence involving giant pots of honey looks horribly garish. Worst of all, the presence of Keane’s sickly ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ on the trailer’s soundtrack suggests a dangerous intention to bring things up to date.
But simply complaining about this sort of cultural misappropriation isn’t going to be enough: it seems to me that our only option is to give as good as we get. So anyone for a remake of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ set on a canal boat in Norfolk, starring Noel Clarke and one of McFly? Or how about Shane Ritchie in ‘The Elvis Presley Story’? Or ‘Carry On Founding Fathers’ with Julian Clary as George Washington? Or an epic action movie about Iwo Jima in which all the roles are taken by 'Corrie' cast members?
But no, some things are sacred. I’m no stuffy traditionalist – just look at Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ for a perfect example of how to cleverly Americanise a British classic. But there has to be a limit.
‘Winnie the Pooh’ opens in cinemas on April 15. My campaign of peaceful protest starts right now. We can’t let them get away with this. Who’s with me?
I never got into the old AA. Milne stories as a child, I started Winnie the Pooh with the tv series "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" and the newer movies, such as Pooh's Grand Adventure (the best Pooh movie yet, because it was dark), Piglet's Big Movie, and Pooh's Heffalump Movie. I never really got into the 1960s Disney adaptions either. I still watched them, but they seemed too "oldy." I prefer the way Hefalumps look in the new movie "Poohs Hefallump Movie."
The same happened with Hasbro's My Little Pony series. It started out in the 1980s as being okay: it had adventure, dark storylines, menacing villians; but it lacked in fleshed-out characters or good storylines. Hasbro improved MLP by a milestone when it created 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.' This new show, which started in 2010 and is on it's 5th season, is a vast improvement from the 1980s version. It has likable/relatable characters good comedy, adventure, menacing villains, top-notch animation, and mature storytelling. So, even though the 1980s version was nice, the 2010 version is much better. In the same way, Winnie the Pooh improved with the tv show and the 1990s-2000s movies.
The old stories by Milne are nice, the old 60s films were nice, but Disney has only improved on Winnie the Pooh. I see it as an improvement. This 2012 movie, however, I wouldn't care for if I was expecting a "Pooh" movie, but I enjoyed it because I saw it with the right mindset. I enjoyed it for the comedy, as it was a great movie, even if it wasn't much of a Pooh movie.
To clear up this line: "I still watched them, but they seemed too "oldy.""
For example, I prefer the way Hefalumps look in the new movie "Poohs Hefallump Movie," to the look Disney gave them in the 60s films.
To clarify the My Little Pony part:
It started out in the 1980s as being meh, okay, or mediocre: it had adventure, dark storylines, menacing villains; but it lacked in fleshed-out characters and good storytelling that older audiences would enjoy. Hasbro improved on MLP by a milestone when it created the tv show 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' in 2010. This new show, which is on it's 5th season, shows a vast improvement from the old 80s version. It has likable/relatable characters, good comedy, adventure, menacing villains, top-notch animation, and good storytelling that older audiences would find enjoyable.
This is why MLP:FiM is so popular with teenagers and adults (also called Bronies). So, even though the 1980s version of pony was nice, the 2010 version is much, much better. In the same way, Winnie the Pooh only improved with the creation of the tv show and the late 1990s-2000s movies.
Having said that, I hope that Disney doesn't stay with this style, (and especially not with the "Super Sleuths" style of 3d animation), and goes back to the 1990s-2000s style they were doing, as in The Tigger Movie, Pooh's Grand Adventure, Piglet's Big Movie, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, and Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie.