Winnie the Pooh/ dir. Stephen Anderson & Don Hall/ 2011
On the second to last day of the Seattle International Film Festival, I sit in a theater awaiting the North American premiere of Winnie the Pooh. To my left, my partner of about a year and all around me I am surrounded by an almost full theater of smiling parents, anxious kids, and general fans of animation (well at least the folks that can make it to an early morning showing on a Saturday). After the parade of speakers and thank yous, the lights go dim, and Winnie the Pooh comes on. Amidst the occasional laughs from the small children around me, my eyes are affixed on the screen, hanging on each beautifully animated frame while I reminisce of the days when I first met the round lovable bear known as Winnie the Pooh. Days after I’m still collecting my thoughts, reflecting on all the changes that have occurred in and around me in not only the 5 months since I last wrote, but also the 2 years since I took my first baby steps into the animation world. All this brought about by a mere children’s movie. So after a very lengthy hiatus, I figured I should write something…
Winnie the Pooh is not your traditional “modern” animated feature. It’s doesn’t offer any flashy effects or well planned out action sequences. There is no magic, no plot twists and no added adult humor or pop culture references to entice the older audiences. No, Winnie the Pooh is an old fashioned Disney 2D/ hand drawn animated film through and through. It knows its core audience and it’s an effective film for 3 reasons: simple storytelling, a subtle yet powerful moral message, and a creative imagination. All these add up to something that gets lost in today’s films of CG, big action sequences, grand sets, and manufactured emotions… Innocence.
Winnie the Pooh is a kind of a reboot. It delves into some of the original stories from A.A. Milne’s books that have never been translated into the Disney animated space. All pretty much hand drawn, and featuring some of animation’s greatest talents as supervisors, Randy Haycock (Hercules, Princess and the Frog), Eric Goldberg (Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tarzan), Bruce Smith (Princess and the Frog, Bebe’s Kids), Mark Henn (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), Andreas Deja (Lion King, Lilo & Stitch), I think its easy to say that Winnie the Pooh is a gorgeous film. The feeling of the film harkens back to the Disney days before they lumped all the princesses together, and to the days when I got my ass up early on Saturday mornings just to watch those animated gems. Life seemed so simple back then and this movie seemed like a direct correlation; straightforward story, no real major antagonists, and a subtle moral learned at the end. This in turn is a contrast to today’s animated features, which are big money makers, with lavish textures, detailed plots, and contrived emotions.
Which brings me back to my reflective mood. It’s been 5 months since I’ve touched this site, and I think it’s been a pretty fast and crazy 5 months. In that time I’ve pseudo-moved down to Tacoma (my address and my heart are still in Seattle and I’m still in Seattle on the weekends) to take up an animation job at a small software company that specializes in physical therapy and exercise. It’s quite a change, and even though it’s not my dream job (I’m not even too sure what that is right now) it’s the first step toward a larger world. Here’s also a change I notice, the majority of my friends now have started families, and being around kids, babies, and parents made me realize that maybe, just maybe I am growing up (whatever that means). I haven’t really had time to process all the changes that have occurred in and around me, just like I don’t I have really taken the time to see just how much the animation landscape has changed since my youth.
About a week ago, I was at birthday party for the 1st birthday of the son of a good homie of mine. As I stood in that park, watching the innocence of young children playing, having fun, and generally enjoying life, it seemed so simple, so genuine and so real. No big club scene, no endless drinks, and no built-up drama, and in the end I think I figured out the subtle, yet powerful message. No matter what, I look out for the people who matter most to me.