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Who's who on Walt Disney Animation Studios' reboot of Winnie the Pooh

Who's who on Walt Disney Animation Studios' reboot of Winnie the Pooh

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It is the film that - when Andrew Mooney of Disney Consumer Products revealed that this project was in the works back in June of 2009 at the Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas - made a lot of people go "Huh?"

By that I mean: A hand-drawn, feature-length Winnie the Pooh. Which was something that Walt himself wasn't sure would work. Which is why - back in the early 1960s - Disney stopped developing a "Pooh" feature and opted instead to make featurettes like "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree."


(L to R) Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall. Photo by
Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc
All rights reserved

Which is why -- when Stephen J. Anderson & Don Hall came to John Lasseter with an idea of taking three of A.A. Milne's "Pooh" stories that Disney had yet to use - they were thinking home premiere.  Something that Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment might release

But John ... He saw something more here. More to the point, recognizing that The Walt Disney Company was looking to reboot Winnie the Pooh, return Milne's Silly Old Bear to the way this character was initially presented to the public back in the 1960s.


Copyright 1966 Walt Disney Productions.
All rights reserved

But whimsy & charm is a lot harder than it looks. Especially when you're trying to make a hand-drawn animated feature that's supposed to be whimsical & charming for longer than an hour. Which is why Walt Disney Animation Studios recruited some of the very best animators in the business - not to mention top voice talent - to come work on "Winnie the Pooh."

So who's who on "Pooh" ? Well, as you can see by the photo below, Jim Cummings has returned to voice both Winnie the Pooh & Tigger.


Jim Cummings. Photo by Eric Charbonneau.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

As for Winnie the Pooh's supervising animator ... Mark Henn's pulling double duty on this production ...


Mark Henn. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... serving as supervising animator for both Winnie the Pooh & Christopher Robin. While master animator Andreas Deja ...


Andreas Deja. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... is the one tackling that sure-to-be-difficult assignment, animating bouncy, trouncy Tigger.

As for Owl, he's being voiced by "Late, Late Show"  host Craig Ferguson ...


Craig Ferguson.  Photo by Eric Charbonneau.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... while industry veteran Dale Baer is serving as supervising animator for this garrulous raptor.


Dale Baer. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

As for Rabbit ... Tom Kenny, best known for voicing SpongeBob SquarePants, will be the performer who'll be speaking for Rabbit this time around ...


Tom Kenny. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... while the one, the only Eric Goldberg will be supervising the animation of Pooh's hare-y pal.


Eric Goldberg. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And then when you factor in that there are artists of the caliber of Randy Haycock (who will be supervising the animation of Eeyore) ...


Randy Haycock. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... and Bruce Smith (who'll be supervising the animation of Piglet on this production) ...


Bruce Smith. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... "Winnie the Pooh" really does look like a winner. Especially when you factor in that Disney Legend Burny Mattinson ...


Burny Mattinson. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... -- who worked as a key animator on Disney's 1974 featurette, "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" - is serving as a senior story artist on this particular production. Which provides a bit of creative connective tissue from this new "Pooh" animated feature all the way back to the three WDAS featurettes that proceeded it.

And did I mention that Monty Python vet John Cleese ...


John Cleese. Photo by Eric Charbonneau. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... will be serving as the narrator of this hand-drawn animated feature? Which will also attempt to recreate those beautiful watercolor-like backgrounds that gave Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" featurettes of the 1960s & 1970s such a distinct look.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"So what does the storyline of 'Winnie the Pooh' entail?," you ask. Well, it's funny that you should use the word "tail." For one of the main plotlines of this new hand-drawn Walt Disney Animation Studios production deals with the search for Eeyore's tail.


Concept art story sketch by Burny Mattinson, color by Paul Felix. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, there are a lot of industry insiders who wonder if "Winnie the Pooh" 's gentle whimsy & charm will have what it takes to stand up to that sure-to-be summer blockbuster, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" ...


Copyright Warner Bros. All rights reserved

... which opens on the exact same day (i.e. July 15, 2011) as Disney's next hand-drawn animated feature.

But the folks at Walt Disney Studios ... Given that "Deathly Hallows - Part II" will be the darkest & most violent of the "Harry Potter" films, they're assuming that a lot of parents will opt out of taking their younger children to go see the final installment of this series. At least while this Warner Bros. film is still in theater. Which then (in theory, anyway) makes "Winnie the Pooh" 's July 15th opening date a brilliant bit of counter-programming. Giving audiences a more family-friendly option on what's sure-to-be one of the busiest movie-going weekends of the year.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But what do you folks think? Will Winnie the Pooh & his hunny pots really have what it takes to stand up to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II" ? Or will the crew at WDAS sink into a Eeyore-like funk once they get a look at how this hand-drawn animated feature performs over its opening weekend?

Your thoughts?

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  • Opening against HP7-2! They have got to be kidding! They'll be slaughtered. Push the release date back.

  • It isn't any competition at all.  They're just getting it out there in hopes of pulling in the preschool and nostalgia audiences over the summer break.  Nobody is going to be standing at the ticket counter wondering "hmmm, which one should I choose...Winnie the Pooh or Harry Potter..."

    Isn't this mostly about keeping the Winnie the Pooh product line alive and getting another DVD out there?  I thought I remembered something else about them just keeping the animators busy between other projects.  This will have to get incredible word of mouth and good staying power in the theatres to pull in big money.  I hope it's charming and wonderful and performs as well as the animators dream it will, but at this point, I'm skeptical, and I grew up liking Winnie the Pooh!

    (But I LOVE Harry Potter - IOA, here I come!)

  • On the one hand I don't think any other film is going to stand a chance against HP7 Pt. 2 but on the other hand Pooh is targeting a much different, probably much younger audience. I for one will see Pooh over HP at the age of 27 solely because I never bother with HP movies opening weekend due to the insane crowds. I'd much rather see it once it's been out for awhile and there's only a handful of people in the theater.

  • There will be plenty of gleeful nay-sayers who see this as a competition between Potter and Pooh, and the only reason I would feel compelled to move the opening date is to deny them their pun-filled and oh-so-witty articles about Potter's box office triumph over the also-British bear. (The headlines will write themselves.)

    It's not a competition, except for those who think the world revolves around weekend box-office box scores.

    I'm sure my family and I will try to see both on opening weekend.

  • I'm actually saddened by one aspect of this film....Peter Cullen won't be returning to voice Eeyore.

  • The notion that this film in any way, shape, or form would compete against HP is just ridiculous. I'd take my four year old to see this movie ... not the tweens who'll make up the HP audience. Sillyness.

    And seriously ... much like Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones, I'd listen to John Cleese narrate a list of cereal ingredients. Sign me up. I hate Harry friggin' Potter anyway.

  • Tigger, please!

  • Talk about Bad Timing!!!!!!  Do the people at Disney try to deliberately sabotage their own movies???? Why does this feature have to be released on the same day as Harry 7 Part 2?????  This is what happened with Princess & the Frog, which was an excellent return to traditional animation.  The weekend after its nation wide release, Avatar opened and we all know what type of business it did.  And it pulled the audience away from this and other films. Even Beauty & the Beast would have had trouble against Avatar.  The Prince of Persia, which was also an excellent film, suffered from bad scheduling as well.  The cost was a possible franchise. Give Winnie the Pooh a fighting chance.  Change the opening date.

  • This will be the of Pooh...

  • missing word:

    END

  • It is not *supposed* to crush Harry Potter, nor does it have to - it´s a small movie with a small budget, and it will be profitable at the box office. Simple math.

  • The only concern I would have with this opening weekend is that the Harry Potter crowd will be big and big crowds can get a bit pushy shovey which can be intimidating for smaller children.  Plus, lines will be longer so the littles might be tuckered out before they get into the movie.  That being said....I'm almost 50 and I'm looking forward to seeing it.  And I'm really pleased they are doing traditional animation which fits the Pooh story so much better than CGI. And I do plan on seeing Harry Potter also.

  • This looks so great! Why assume people have to choose Potter over Pooh or vice versa? My husband and I can go see Harry Potter on our own and then take the kids to see Pooh. We're pretty selective about what we pay to see in theaters but I'd go see them both.

  • while it's surprising to see anything against HP7, this is actually a good idea.  this is a summer weekend where the movies will be in the news a bit more more than usual because of "the final Potter", and Pooh could see some nice spillover when a bunch of the HP showings are sold out.  not many families who have kept up with the Potter series so far are going to miss out on it because it's the "darkest" or "most violent"... they're going to see it.  but they may also see that Pooh is out and give it a chance once Potter plummets the following weekend.  plus, there won't be another kids movie out until August 3rd, when Sony waterboards the nation with Smurfs.

  • Judging by the last Potter film, I can confidently predict that Pooh will better, quality-wise.

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