It's been a long time since we've seen a Pooh movie which doesn't center on a theme surrounding just one character. This film hearkens back to the classic "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" (1977) which were ensembles which comprised the three original Disney shorts as separate stories. Here they blend three stories together in a decent manner, though there are a few problems along the way.
First of all--as silly as this may sound--many voices were so off from the previous films that some characters were unrecognizable. Most notably Owl who'd been voiced by Andre Stojka for twenty years has been replaced by Craig Ferguson. Stojka had based his voice off Hal Smith's version from the original shorts. In essence, Owl went from an older wise sounding--yet absent minded--character to a high pitched young kid with Ferguson's take. It was hard to get over it. Same goes for Tom Kenny's take on Rabbit. While he's most famous for his role as the overbearing yellow sponge under the sea, he didn't seem to try to nail down rabbit. It was a totally new voice that was bland and dull. His predecessor was Ken Sansom, whom while still under contract from Disney, replied he didn't know if he'd reprise the role after being asked some time ago. Given his little dialogue, it's a wonder he didn't find the time to return. The last was the all too noticeable absence of Peter Cullen who'd been voicing Eeyore for twenty-three years--and Optimus Prime even longer--was replaced by the very recognizable Bud Luckey. He captured the essence, but hell I miss Peter Cullen in this role. Maybe it's a subconscious bias having grown up with the series?
The film's directors Don Hall and Stephen J Anderson adapted were from A.A. Milne's original book. They were "In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One," and "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump." However, a reckless mean spirited Backson replaces the heffalump, but it's just as terrifying. Especially when it inhabits the voice and personality of Huell Howser. You Californians know what I'm talking about. The third story was more like a sub point here, being "In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day, and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings." I think the former part of that title was excluded here, as the directors made some questionable decisions as to what would make the cut. For the film clocks in at a measly 54 minutes max--plus a bonus post credit scene--which is still approximately twenty minutes shorter than the average Pooh film. They claimed in the deleted scenes that pacing was there reason for making the three cuts, but I wholeheartedly disagree. The first storyline adapted takes a backseat when the second one surfaces and plays out completely before returning to the finish the first story. Usually these are blended. But it seemed that just as they were setting off on their adventure, the climax was in full swing. And said climax isn't very climatic, on a cinematic level anyway. Those who saw the far better "Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin" (1997) understand what I mean here. The adventure started within the first twenty minutes, and ended an hour later with all sorts of things happening as their imaginations ran wild. Virtually none of that here with the exception of a scene similar to Pooh's classic nightmare, except it's happier.
The next problem was the lack of humor. Those familiar with "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" television series which ran from 1988 till 1991 know what I'm talking about. The stories in the eighty-two episodes were imaginative, and had multiple things going on at once with lots of adult humor that kids wouldn't get that made it funnier. The characters were still innocent of course, but their adventures were far more adventurous, whereas here the age level and attention span being aimed at is toddlers. Everything's warm and fuzzy with few nods to clever humor, and their imaginations never run wild with the exception of Piglet which is expected. So that was a downer having grown up with that television series which would have such clever quips as Tigger replying to Rabbit about being trapped in a fortress forever by saying "Look on the bright side, maybe you won't live that long." None of that type of humor here. Overall, I'm flabbergasted at how this film scored a theatrical release, whereas "Pooh's Grand Adventure" did not. It was by far the best direct to video Disney film ever, and far better than the following few Pooh movies from the past decade.
So in the end, the classic innocent characters from the Hundred Acre Wood return with the same innocence, but with less clever humor, and far less imagination. However, it doesn't dampen the spirit to know that somebody out there still cares about classic hand drawn animation which centers on the most beloved animated characters of all time.