Seriously, Disney? A live-action Winnie The Pooh? Seriously?
Over on Facebook my fellow Reviewers Unknown compatriot Eli Stone (The Cartoon Hero) was talking about the next live-actionized Disney movie, after the Jungle Book. Of course it’s not a Disney original, few movies they’ve made being at least inspired by another work, but the fact that Disney made a live-action version of the story when they’ve had great success with the animated classic. Even the direct-to-video sequel is at best mediocre and unnecessary.
But now we’re getting a live-action version of Winnie The Pooh, the classic A.A. Milne character that has starred in numerous Disney shows and movies in animation only as late as a few years ago. (Well, except for Welcome To Pooh Corner, the early Disney Channel show for kids that used costumes with moving mouths which had a special video about stranger danger. But that was a special situation. Dumbo had one of those, too.) But for some reason Disney has opted not only to make this into a live-action movie, but to rip off the plot to another film that wasn’t made by Disney but they have a connection to the character. Namely Peter Pan.
From the Hollywood Reporter’s article on the new director for Christopher Robin:
The story centers on Robin, the adult version of the boy who in the A.A. Milne books shares his adventures with the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood. Robin has grown out of the joyful imagination he had as a young boy and is now a businessman who prioritizes work over his wife and daughter. With his home life on the brink, the last thing his life needs is the return of Pooh, who requires his help in finding his friends again. Robin has to find a way to help both sides or risk losing everything he holds dear.
Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Yep, that was the basic plot of Hook, the movie where Peter Pan (played by Robin Williams) decided to leave Neverland, grow up, and became too engrossed in his work to spend time with his children. (I think the mother died of notinthismovieitis.) Then events force him to find his lost youth and reconnect with his children. You can bet the plot is similar here, I’m assuming having the wife and daughter drawn into the search for Pooh Bear’s friends and Christopher Robin realizing that there’s more to life than work, as important as work is, is a no-brainer for how things will go.
The hardest part about this is that Christopher Robin, at least in name, was based on Milne’s actual son, Robin being his middle name. According to Wikipedia, Christopher Milne grew unhappy about this.
Christopher Robin was based upon the author A. A. Milne’s own son, Christopher Robin Milne, who in later life became unhappy with the use of his name. Christopher Milne wrote in one of a series of autobiographical works: “It seemed to me almost that my father had got where he was by climbing on my infant shoulders, that he had filched from me my good name and left me nothing but empty fame”. One of the poems, Vespers – which describes young Christopher Robin saying his evening prayers – was said by Christopher Milne as “the one work that has brought me over the years more toe-curling, fist-clenching, lip-biting embarrassment than any other”.
The man did not always have a happy life, with his daughter contracting cerebral palsy and being on the outs with his mother (even on her deathbed she refused to see him) because he married his first cousin (it was a different time) instead of her preference of his childhood friend. Takes some of the sting out, doesn’t it?
But what is it with Disney lately? A live-action Christopher Robin story that rips off Hook? A live-action Jungle Book as well as a new Pete’s Dragon, which only had an animated dragon in those pre-CGI days, and both lacking the whimsy and fun of the originals? Are they bad? I haven’t seen them to tell you and the new Pete’s does look interesting even if it has zero connection to the original outside of a boy named Pete and a dragon named Elliot (and that dragon doesn’t even look like an “Elliot”). The problem is that I’m worried that a studio born from joyful cartoons (with plenty of action mind you) has now fallen prey to the “live-action status symbol“, which is odd considering Disney also has a good history with live-action movies. Even then the last “Witch Mountain” movie was lacking something the first two had.
And they’ve been darker reboots or re-imaginings. The last fun one, although still plenty dark at times, was the previously mentioned Race To Witch Mountain and I just found out the movie (and attempted TV) franchise was based on a serious of books. I now want to look into those. And according to Entertainment Weekly, we aren’t done yet.
For Disney, Christopher Robin comes as the studio’s latest live-action project reimagining a popular animated film or franchise. Previous and upcoming examples include Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book,Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, and Aladdin.
See, the problem isn’t that they’re making live-action movies since they aren’t original stories anyway. The problem is that THEY are making live-action versions of stories they’ve already done as animated musicals. What’s wrong with what they’ve already made? And the ones that have come out, specifically Maleficent and Cinderella, are even controversial. The former gets scorn for trying to give one of Disney’s greatest villains the Wicked treatment, and I wasn’t even happy with that play’s plot. (I like my villains evil, what can I tell you?) In the latter’s case it gets compared to the animated classic and it’s a toss-up which you prefer, as noted in an episode of the Nostalgia Critic’s “Old Versus New” series.
Why are the people who told the stories of Belle, Mulan, and Aladdin already doing it again but with physical actors? Is it necessary? No! It’s that continued insistence in Hollywood that animation is “for babies” and live-action theatrical productions are the sign that you’ve “made it”. And that’s even after Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs proved them wrong. Remember who made that movie? What’s next, a live-action Mickey Mouse? If it isn’t an adaptation of Kingdom Hearts that’s not going to go over well. Although being a video game, that should be animated too.