Why, Christopher Robin?

This week, Disney released the first trailer to their upcoming film Christopher Robin, which I discovered, to my disappointment, was not a Finding Neverland style story of how the Winnie the Pooh books came to be, but rather a live-action sort-of sequel to the Winnie the Pooh mythos (I can't believe I just wrote the words "Winnie the Pooh mythos"). Normally, I would be all over another Winnie the Pooh movie; I've always had a soft spot in my hard, cynical heart for that stuffed bear and his other animal friends. They're all well-defined characters with big personalities, charming designs and go on wholesome adventures. However, I have a sinking feeling about this new Pooh movie and it's not just because Disney's live-action output since 2015 has been nothing but bland cash-grabbing. There are a few discomforting parts of this trailer that make me think that the Disney executive board (for that is who's actually making their movies nowadays, not the filmmakers) don't fundamentally understand Winnie the Pooh, the character or the original stories. Let's break down what Disney has completely missed about one of its most beloved characters.

The first issue is that it's live action and not just because Pooh's new design is completely charmless and oddly terrifying. The Winnie the Pooh characters have always worked best in animation because it helps blur the line between the real Christopher Robin and his world of imagination, which was kind of the point of the original stories. They're meant to be exploits of childhood fantasy, where imagination becomes reality not just for Christopher Robin, but for the audience as well. Animation wasn't just the most available option at the time of the first Winnie the Pooh movie. It was the best option. Taking this world and putting it into live action breaks that illusion. No matter how good the CGI will be on Pooh and the other characters, we're always going to notice they're computer generated, breaking the illusion even more.

The second issue is the plot setup, which causes more than just a single problem on its own. Now, due to my time-traveling Christmas sweater being in the wash I haven't seen the film yet, so my saying that one of the big problems with this film is the plot might sound more than a little presumptuous. However, I believe I can already tell what the plot is going to be from the trailer: the stressed out adult with adult problems will be reintroduced to the wonders and magic of childhood by a magical creature he at first takes for an inconvenience. Gee, haven't seen that before in Mary Poppins, Hook, Paddington and several other movies. But the problem isn't necessarily that the plot is cliche; it's an archetype that has been used to great effect in many good films. The problem with this setup is that it will more than likely force the characters to act in ways contradictory to their established personalities. It seems to me from this teaser that they're trying to turn Pooh into a wise character, meant to guide Christopher Robin back to his childhood. However, if you'll recall, that's almost the exact opposite of what Winnie the Pooh is; he's naive, a bit slow on the uptake, he needs a specific spot in order to get any thinking done. That doesn't sound like the type of person you should be taking life advice from, but it seems that's what they're going for anyway.

All of this is just conjecture, however, and I could be proven wrong or just not care if Disney's live-action department manages to crap out a gold nugget instead of their usual microwave broccoli kidney stone. I hope that's the case because if there's anything that I want to hate the least it's Winnie the Pooh. Consider all fingers and toes available crossed.


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