Here is True Confession Time: I’m not a huge Winnie the Pooh fan. I just never vibed with him. Honestly my favourite character has generally been Rabbit, because Rabbit is the Token Adult. You might think it’s Kanga, but Kanga isn’t much of a character through a lot of the stories. She’s the mom of my childhood, who’d often let you wander the neighbourhood from the time you woke up to the time it started getting dark. Rabbit’s more a grown-up that you actually interacted with—the good old fashioned Get Off My Lawn type. But I sympathized so hard with him even as a child.
There’s vaguely a plot here, in the style of Winnie the Pooh (in the Jim Cummings era). Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) has left a note reading, “GoN OUT BIZY BACK SooN c.ʀ.” Owl (Craig Ferguson) determines that this means that Christopher Robin has been captured by a terrifying creature called a Backson (Huell Howser in a delightful post-credits stinger). Meanwhile, Eeyore (Bud Luckey) has lost his tail, and there’s a need for a replacement. They propose a contest, the winner of which will get a large pot of honey.
I’m going to start with the end; I love the Backson. But I love the Backson mostly because I love Huell Howser. Californians will understand. Especially older ones—the young ones are now too young to remember him, as he died ten years ago. But when I lived there, I was always delighted when a PBS show ran a little short of the hour and we’d get a Videologue. In fact, a former teacher of mine was on the show once, admiring the world’s largest wisteria. Howser’s enthusiasm and joy were infectious. There’s so much I learned about my home state through his eyes, and one of the only VHS tapes I own is an episode of California’s Gold, because I found a signed copy at a library book sale.
It’s also generally true that the bits I like most of the Winnie the Pooh movies are the ones invented for Disney. I am fond of the animation style, wherein the characters wander about their own books and talk to the narrator. It’s a great conceit, and it works with the quietly whimsical world created for the films. Gopher, famously Not In The Books, isn’t in this movie, but the Backson is new here, something of a replacement for the Heffalumps and Woozles. It’s mentioned in one of the books, but this is the first real appearance of one.
Let’s be real; this movie tanked because it came out opposite the final Harry Potter. It’s a shame; this is a charming, whimsical film. It’s sweet and quiet. It’s low-stakes, because it doesn’t make sense to have a high-stakes Winnie the Pooh movie. It’s appropriate that Huell Howser would be in it, because it’s a fun, easygoing introduction to a world, and that’s what he did. It’s also got hands-down my favourite sequence in any Winnie the Pooh version, the knot discussion. The look on Rabbit’s face in that scene is just life, isn’t it?