Winnie the Pooh released on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 25, 2011. This is the first time Disney has revisited the franchise in a theater release since The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in 1977. The Winnie the Pooh character a la Disney maintained great popularity during the 80's and 90's through a series of television and direct-to-video programs, including the abysmal "Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin."
More recently, the brand has been revamped through shows like "My Friends Tigger and Pooh" on The Disney Channel, and the movies "Pooh's Heffalump Movie", "The Tigger Movie", and "Piglet's Big Movie". Disney stepped up to the plate and put together a rare sequel for theatrical release. (this is only the fourth time an official sequel has been released by Disney Animation Studios--the other movies serialized being The Three Caballeros, Fantasia, and The Rescuers).
Winnie the Pooh manages to embrace the best of the "classic" Pooh movie, really "out-classic-ing" it in many ways. The characters, like Gopher, who are not in the orginal books, have been removed. The opening theme song, delightfully reworked by Zooey Deschanel, now includes Tigger, sadly left out of the orignal version! The look of the film is even more sepia-toned in many ways than the "original," which goes right along with the look of the drawing in the A.A. Milne books.
As far as the storyline, it is a bit stereotypical: Eeyore loses his tail and the group must find him a new one, and then the characters misunderstand a note left by Christopher Robin and overreact to an imagined danger. The song they sing felt a bit too familiar, very similar to the "Huffalump" song in "Pooh's Heffalump Movie," but Owl, charmingly voiced by the delightful Craig Ferguson, manages to keep it from being too over the top. The little touches, like the "helmets" worn by Piglet and Pooh, and nods to the essence of the original characters, made this a delightful film for fans and new viewers alike.
Sadly, many of the orignal voice actors are deceased, but the voice casting was done very well. Sterling Holloway, the original beloved voice of Pooh Bear, has been replaced perfectly by Jim Cummings, who is the classic voice of Tigger (doing both voices). Owl, voiced by Craig Ferguson, is excellent. Piglet, another "replacement" of the classic voice, is pefection. The only character that threw me off was Eeyore, who is now voiced by Bud Luckey. Peter Cullen, who voiced the character from 1988 through 2008, was conspicuously absent.(perhaps too busy filming Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, as the voice of Optimus Prime) Luckey, while he hits the mark most of the time, occaisionally sounds too much like the evil Lotso character he portrayed in Toy Story 3.
The songs, by spousal duo Robert and Kristen Anderson Lopez, channelled the best of the Sherman Brothers without being too "cutesy,' and Zoey Deschanel's contributions were just right.
All said, as a purist, I loved the movie. It didn't try to take Pooh in a new direction, but embraced the essence of the classic while still staying funny for all ages.