There are some offers in life you just don’t pass up, and an invitation to Disney Animation Studios is most certainly one of them. Last week I had the opportunity to visit the studios and check out the soon to be released Winnie the Pooh (in theaters July 15) and it’s accompanying short, “The Ballad of Nessie”.
**A COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY NO SPOILERS ALERT**
I don’t want too reveal too much about the plot of the film, but I WILL flat out tell you that if you’re expecting a tear jerker, you’re in for a monstrously huge surprise. No, this isn’t your average sappy, sentimental drivel: this, my friend, is a straight up comedy. Although there are definitely some heart-warming, sweet, yadda yadda (no, not that yadda yadda) moments in the film, Winnie the Pooh is clearly not aimed at making you bawl your brains out- and for that, I sincerely thank this movie. None of the ultra cheesy, forced, contrived plots and sappy moments that are all too common in film of this day and age.
The entire progression of the movie felt really natural, light, and absolutely fresh. A couple of the scenes had me in Simpsons and South Park flashbacks… yes, the Simpsons and South Park… while watching a Disney movie. I kid you not.
There are some oddly slapstick moments thrown in the mix, but nothing too mind warping or heavy. At its core, Winnie the Pooh is such a lighthearted, un-grotesque film that its hard not to be touched. Touched not by a conventional, wah-wah crying my eyes out plot, but by sheer innocence, simplicity, and the astounding beauty of non-CGI animation.
Beautiful artwork from the film :
The Ballad of Nessie :
The directors, cast, and animators of the film really stressed the “warm” feeling of the hand drawn animation and I completely back that viewpoint. Oh hand drawn animation, you are the vinyl to my CDs and mp3s. The animation is gorgeous, nostalgic, and has a beautiful simplicity that is much needed in a time where CGI, exploding things, and crudeness all rule the big screen.
I definitely tend to geek out on art so being able to visit the animation studios was an awesome experience. After watching the film we were treated to an ADR demo (automated dialogue replacement, dubbing basically) with Winnie the Pooh producer Peter Del Vecho (below, left). Volunteers were given the opportunity to dub over tiny, quivering piglet (awww) in the recording booth.
Next up, a roundtable with Disney Consumer Products. Interesting fact : you won’t see Winnie the Pooh on a surfboard any time soon. The take home message here was that licenses are only extended to products that truly fit the nature of the character and the Disney brand. Sooo, I guess this means a big fat “NO” to my Piglet pepper spray idea?
DCP also takes inspiration from favorite childhood memories, like say, completely adorable falling apart Winnie The Pooh stuffed animals that you had ever since you were a baby.
Drawing demo with Mark Henn (supervising animator for “Winnie the Pooh” and “Christopher Robin”) was one of my favorite events of the day. We were treated to a little lesson on how to sketch Winnie the Pooh, and, while the lesson was great… well, you definitely do not want to see my sketch!
We were also treated to a drawing demo with Eric Goldberg (supervising animator for “Rabbit”). Goldberg expressed taking some inspiration from “a certain president from the 70’s” during certain Rabbit scenes and his take is completely SPOT ON (and absolutely hilarious) so be on the look out for that in the film!
Tons and tons of artwork everywhere throughout the studio. One could seriously spend the entire day just staring at the walls.
At the end of the day we were also given some gifts to take home, including a gorgeous litograph, too pretty not to share!
Some items that can be purchased in conjunction with the film : Winnie the Pooh 12″ Plush ($16.50 at the Disney Store), Winnie the Pooh : A Celebration of a Silly Old Bear by Christopher Finch ($40), Winnie the Pooh Soundtrack, Winnie The Pooh Pook-A-Looz keychain plush
Winnie the Pooh opens in theaters on July 15, 2011. Don’t forget to “like” Winnie The Pooh on facebook to be kept up to date with the latest from the Winnie The Pooh movie. You can also view the Winnie the Pooh trailer on YouTube!
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