Winnie the Pooh Finds New Life on Blu-ray

After being pulverized at the box office by the Harry Potter finale last summer, Winnie the Pooh gets a well-deserved second chance on Blu-ray this week from Disney Home Ent. It’s not often that we get to bask in the splendor of hand-drawn animation, and this first theatrical rendering of Pooh and his pals from the Hundred-Acre Wood looks dazzling in HD.

Disney’s 2D dream team, hot off The Princess and the Frog, did well by the beloved franchise: Dale Baer (Owl), Andreas Deja (Tigger), Eric Goldberg (Rabbit), Richard Haycock (Eeyore), Mark Henn (Pooh and Christopher Robin), Bruce Smith (Piglet, Kanga and Roo), and senior story artist Burny Mattinson.

They not only went back to the roots of Pooh to rediscover its wit and simplicity, but they also went to Milne country in England to soak up the places that inspired the author, especially Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, where they sketched, painted, and captured the architecture and soft English light.

The result is a Winnie the Pooh that channels the past yet bears an unmistakably contemporary stamp, with more slapstick and artistic plussing that comes from the latest and greatest digital enhancements. The honey, for instance, may look like CG, but it’s actually hand-drawn with some creative Photoshop filtering.

“This is obviously a simpler film, Hall says. “We just had to get everybody’s head wrapped around, mostly in effects, not doing tone maps, casting shadows very sparingly. At first, they were like, ‘Well, what are we gonna do on this movie?’ I told them to trust us. You’re going to have plenty to do — the honey sequence and the Backson sequence. So it was really more about training people not to bring all their tools to this.”

“They were actually going to try to make it look exactly like the original,” Baer adds. “Make it look like film, Xeroxed, paint shatter, cell shadows, which would’ve been neat. But with the technology today we’ve been able to enhance everything that we couldn’t back in the ’70s.”

John Lasseter told them that this was their generation’s Pooh, and not be afraid to be more expressive. So they turned it into a wacky variation of Cuckoo’s Nest.

Directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall were inspired as well: Hall concurs that this wasn’t anything like the pressure of Frog, where he served as head of story. “This was playtime; we were happy just to entertain.”

Along with the informative featurettes is the marvelous 2D short, The Ballad of Nessie.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, Tech, Trailers, VFX

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