Tag Archives: animal cruelty

“Winnie the Pooh” meets “Avenue Q”

A scene from Walt Disney Picture's Winnie the Pooh--which is full of playful letters and words

Lizabeth suggested at about 12:45pm Saturday afternoon that we hit a 1pm showing of Disney’s new “Winnie the Pooh” film, which gave us little time to transition from Eeyore to Tigger mode. But we made it, and enjoyed every second of nostalgia nirvana in the short 73 minute film.

“Winnie the Pooh” is a literature lover’s dream — filled with images of books, letters and punctuation marks that come alive (as muses, not monsters), and scenes of Pooh characters bouncing, stumbling and flying through the pages of a “Winnie the Pooh” storybook.

Tigger doesn’t text or tweet. Kanga and Roo get letters the old-fashioned way — in their mailbox. Friends work together to solve problems. They’re creative. They cheer each other on. And they accept one another, foibles and all. Pull out the Pooh books before heading to the theater — you’ll want to extend the movie magic with a few good reads when you get home.

Robert Lopez wrote music and lyrics for both Avenue Q and Winnie the Pooh

“Winnie the Pooh” is a lovely musical jaunt, full of classical music in various tempos and styles. The movie features an original score by Henry Jackman and original songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, a married couple with impressive joint and individual credits.

Lizabeth spotted Robert Lopez’s name in the credits — because she’s familiar with his work on “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q.” The couple share music and lyric credits for seven songs in the film. Anderson-Lopez voices Kanga and Playbill.com reports that Lopez makes the rumbling sound for Pooh’s tummy. It’s a gift, I suppose.

A careful review of the movie’s credits — which roll as some of the movie’s funniest antics unfold — reveals plenty of familiar names. There’s Zooey Deschanel, who contributes an original song and vocal performance for the film. And Craig Ferguson (the voice of Owl) of late-night fame.

Also actors who’ve voiced characters for Toy Story 3, Phineas & Ferb and SpongeBob SquarePants. Most endearing is the voice of Christopher Robin. It’s that of Jack Boulter, and it’s his first-ever voiceover role. I may have to enjoy the movie a second time just to relish all the voiceover talent — including narration by John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

A single line in the credits reads “Dan Read-In Memorium” — in honor of a longtime background and visual development artist for Disney Animation films who died in May of 2010 after battling melanoma. I read that donations to local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chapters were requested in lieu of flowers.

Film credits mention “caffeination by Carlos Benavides” and thank three museums, including Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, where film directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall studied original “Winnie the Pooh” illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The original stuffed animals that inspired Milne’s stories for his son Christopher Robin Milne are housed at the New York Public Library.

Disney's Winnie the Pooh opens with pages from this 1961 book by A.A. Milne

Children and their grown-ups giggled throughout the film as Tigger pounced atop a downtrodden Eeyore, Owl recited his lengthy memoir, Roo braved the forrest in his tea cup helmet, Rabbit found comfort in a checklist and Pooh raced to escape angry bees. There were no angry birds back in author A.A. Milne’s day (1882-1956).

When characters ponder knotting a rope to rescue friends who’ve fallen into a pit, Eeyore suggest that “it’s all for naught.” Later he’s convinced that “we’re all gonna die.” Roo offers a deadpan “Send the pig” (Lizabeth’s favorite line) when scary noises loom, and Tigger spends a lot of time saying “it’s gonna be great.” Pooh dreams of honey, meeting frustrations with a simple “Oh, bother!”

Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” website offers a “100 Acre Wood Personality quiz” for those of you who’ve yet to identify with a particular character, and there are plenty of games, activities and facts for younger “Pooh” fans. As other folks flock to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forrest, I’m perfectly content to linger in the 100 Acre Wood.

— Lynn

Note: Lizabeth found a cool “10 Questions” interview of Robert Lopez by Belinda Luscombe of TIME Magazine in which he talks about his “personal connection with Pooh.” Click here to watch the video from TIME.com.

Coming up: Pardon my Pygmalion

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Water for Elephants

I’m enjoying a few days on the East Coast with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth as she gets a final look at one of the colleges she’s considering attending in the fall.

After making a campus visit and touring surrounding towns on Friday, we somehow managed to stumble onto an AMC movie theater just as “Water for Elephants” was about to begin.

“Water for Elephants” is a PG-13 movie about life in a traveling circus during the Depression era. Think prohibition. Riding the rails. And an era not yet enlightened on issues like animal and domestic abuse.

Lizabeth agreed, after we’d watched the credits roll, that posting a review as soon as possible was a good idea — because parents need to know that this movie isn’t meant for kids.

Plenty of parents make a habit of taking children to see PG-13 movies. Perhaps they think mature themes and language will go right over their child’s head. And, in some cases, they may be right.

But animal abuse like that depicted in “Water for Elephants” is something you don’t want your child or pre-teen to see. And the images of domestic violence in this movie are equally inappropriate for kids.

“Water for Elephants” shares a moving story, first told in book form (by author Sara Gruen), of a man trained in veterinary medicine who ends up traveling with the circus after losing both parents in a car crash. Your kids don’t need to see the morgue scene either.

So snag a babysitter or save this movie for an outing with your teen. Lizabeth and I agree that “Water for Elephants” is an excellent film. It’s certainly one of the best directed films I’ve seen in some time (it’s directed by Frances Laurence), and the cinematography is captivating. We also enjoyed the sets, costumes, music and acting performances all around.

It was a treat to finally see Robert Pattinson (“Jacob”) of “Twilight” fame without all that sparkle vampires must endure in the sunlight. But Reese Witherspoon (“Marlena”), known to many for playing “Elle” in the “Legally Blonde” films, delivers the better performance here.

And it’s Christoph Waltz — who portrays the circus master driven by desperation, excess and narcissism — who brings the most depth to the story. Waltz’ performance is engaging at every turn, as his “August” puts profit over people and baits the mere boy who dares to delight his wife.

Hal Holbrook opens and closes the tale as “Old Jacob” — recounting his life before and after his Benzini Brothers days — with a gift for storytelling that’s beautiful and rare. And a number of actors with smaller roles feel equally indispensible to moving the story forward in colorful ways.

“Water for Elephants” is storytelling at its best. I’ll be looking for it next time nominations for film awards are rolled out — and not just because I want to see an elephant walk the red carpet.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about circus arts by visiting the Circus World Museum in Wisconsin (which was involved in the making of “Water for Elephants”).

Coming up: Finding art in New Jersey

Update: “Water for Elephants” author Sara Gruen appears at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe Thurs, May 5, at 7pm for a Reading, Q & A and Booksigning. Event is free with purchase of Gruen’s new book titled “Ape House,” but space is limited. Learn more at www.changinghands.com.