Tag Archives: Owl

“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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Piglet, Pooh & a bubble bath too!

Winnie the Pooh and friends take to the stage at Fountain Hills Youth Theater through Oct 24 for “Winnie-The-Pooh,” a play based on the stories of A. A. Milne and dramatized by Kristen Sergel.

This is true theater by and for youth. The director, Nick Maddox, is an ASU student. Set designer/hair & make-up designer, Danie Beamish, attends Mesa Community College.

I attended Sunday’s matinee with my daughter Lizabeth, and was delighted to see a nearly full house in which preschoolers appeared to outnumber parents.

The show, just over one hour in length, involves the escapades of Pooh and friends as Kanga and Roo come to town. It seems Kanga is fond of cleanliness, and little Piglet terrified of the tub.

Pooh tries to help, of course, but there’s all that honey to eat and all that time spent floating with a blue balloon. Piglet ends up in Kanga’s tin tub as children marvel at bubbles floating down from the bubble machine above.

Most of Pooh’s friends appear in the Hundred Acre Wood at some point — once the narrator and Christopher Robin (holding his stuffed Pooh bear) set the stage. There’s Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit (with six rabbit children) and Skunk.

We enjoyed Amanda Azzarello’s performance as Kanga — who keeps a bar of soap handy in case someone gets too sassy. Summer Beckman as Roo was bright and energetic, and Patrick Moyse’s Eeyore was ever so good at being gloomy.

Katie Male shined as Owl (her costume was among our favorites) and Devin Derr’s Piglet had that perfect balance of perkiness.

Children in the audience clearly loved the entire cast — laughing most heartily during Pooh’s struggles to “think, think, think” and Eeyore’s moments of melancholy.

We loved the set, which echos the charming drawings of Milne’s stories. Trees in the Hundred Acre Wood feature green paper leaves traced from child-size hands. The detail, and colors, are exceptional.

Both acts begin with charming “Winnie the Pooh” music that sounds like it’s coming from a well-loved vinyl record playing on an old phonograph — evoking a genuine nostalgia for Milne’s stories.

Normally I’m not a fan of preschoolers with cell phones, but I do so wish that just this once they could get ahold of devices that would let them text their friends about this show.

Based on the gleeful squeals and giggles during Sunday’s matinee, I suspect they’d all give it glowing reviews.

— Lynn

Note: Thanks to the “Winnie-The-Pooh” program, we learned about several upcoming events in Fountain Hills — including Friday night “Jazz in the Hills” concerts, Fountain Hills “Chamber Players” concerts, the 2010 “Fountain Festival of the Arts & Crafts” (Nov 12-14) and the 2011 “Fountain Hills Great Fair” (Feb 25-27).

Coming up: Review of Disney’s “Beauty & The Beast” at ASU Gammage