Monday, November 28, 2011

A Note on the Tigger Movie

As long as I'm posting about Winnie the Pooh, let me say something about the Tigger Movie:  It was damn depressing.  It reminded me a little of Follow That Bird in the sense that (SUPER-OBVIOUS SPOILERS COMING UP ALERT ALERT DANGER WILL ROBINSON) the main characters realize that their real families have always been there in the first place, but there is a difference between the two.

Big Bird always knew who his real family was. He briefly entertains the notion that there could be someone else out there for him, yes, but only for a few seconds. Otherwise, the film is about his quest home and it is another character that learns what a real family means.

Tigger, on the other hand, spends the whole film not knowing this and desperately seeking out someone else like him. I kind of wish they'd let there be another Tigger out there, even if it would spoil the whole point of the movie. That moment where he (MORE SPOILERS WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?) opens the locket to find that it's empty is just heartbreaking. I know there's a happy ending, but still...

That being said, the poster for the movie really bugs me...

Whee, lookit the fun movie! Look, there's Tigger's big ol' smiling face! And look! Roo and Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore are all getting in on the action! Won't this be a BLAST?

No, no it won't. The movie is a huge tear-jerker. Admittedly, that won't get kids into the theater, but can't we at least give some warning?

Japan does it right. This poster right here sums up the whole movie: Sometimes things seem bleak or sad, but just having your family and friends around can make things seem a little cheerier.

I've gone and depressed myself.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too - Part Two

Pooh and Piglet are faced with a dilemma--how can they get their presents if Santa doesn't have their letter?  Pooh decides to take the matter into his own paws and deliver the presents himself!
Pooh's first stop is Tigger's house.  Tigger, to be sure he's the real Santa, makes him go down the chimney first.  Pooh leaves Tigger with a strange invention...a barrel with a spring and a boot.
Tigger is happy to bounce in the snow for about one second before the barrel thing breaks, leaving him stuck in a snowbank.  "Definitely NOT what I always wanted."

Rabbit, meanwhile, in the creepiest scene of the whole special, is stuffing the bugs with food.  See, the bugs are his honored guests...until Santa shows up with a sprayer full of poison, of course.  Pooh arrives and gives Rabbit a faux-sprayer made out of a teakettle.

"Bugs, prepare to meet your mulcher!"  Seriously, he's ready to kill them!  He even has an evil laugh!  Rabbit, you may have starred in "Find Her, Keep Her," one of the greatest things Disney has ever produced, but you're starting to scare me.

Of course, the thing falls apart, leaving Rabbit at the bugs' mercy.  I'm sure someone out there is turned on by the spanking scene that follows.

Rabbit regroups with Tigger to gripe about Bizzaro-Santa.  They meet up with Eeyore who got...

A mobile home.

They find Santa Pooh and Reindeer Piglet (who's having a lot of trouble carrying them up the hill), en route to finding Christopher Robin and deliver their sled.  The others demand Pooh prove that he's Santa Claus by flying.  Pooh being Pooh, he fails and the ruse is revealed.
Pooh and the others go to the hill where the whole mess started.  Pooh explains the problem and since there's no wind, he decides that he must go deliver the letter himself, even if he might not make it back on time for Christmas.

"It will be worth having no Christmas, Piglet, if I can bring Christmas to all of you.  And...merry Christmas."

If you haven't guessed, this is where the sad part starts.

Poor Pooh wanders through the cold with the letter in his paw and one goal:  Getting there before it's too late.  On the way, though, the letter flies away, leaving Pooh alone in the windy snow.

"Please come back!  I'm supposed to take you to Santa!"

This is why this special always gets me.  These characters represent us at our purest, most vulnerable states. When they're sad, scared, or angry, you can always tell.  They're completely honest with their emotions. They never try to hide anything.  I love these guys.

Speaking of sadness, Piglet and the others realize that it doesn't matter how much stuff they might be getting...they really just want old Pooh back with them.

I realize that this is a true cliche, the whole "real meaning of Christmas" business that you see in every Christmas special, and yet it comes off as being pure here, since the characters are so sweet and innocent.  It works.

Pooh, however, returns shortly, having lost the letter. Piglet embraces his bestest best friend and declares that it doesn't matter if they aren't going to get any presents--Pooh is here and that's all they need!

And even then, not all is lost! Christopher Robin sleds in with presents from Santa! Everyone gets what they originally wanted, including Piglet, who gets...

...whatever the heck that is.

I really can't say anything bad about this special, other than mention the weird subtext with Rabbit and the bugs. It's one of those things that just makes you feel good inside.

The ending, though, is so precious, that I'm just gonna transcribe it.

Christopher Robin: Aren't you gonna open your present, Pooh?

Pooh: But I forgot to ask what I wanted, and then I went to get the letter back, and then I never did get it to the North Pole, and then I, well...Christopher Robin, I don't deserve this. I don't deserve anything.

Christopher Robin: But, Pooh, Santa brought it for you.

Pooh: Which was awfully nice. But you know, I think being with your friends is nicer. Though this would be the perfect...

Christopher Robin: The perfect what?

Pooh: The perfect Merry Christmas height...for this.

(Pooh hugs Christopher Robin)

Christopher Robin: Silly old bear.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too - Part One

There are two things in mainstream culture that can always make me cry--the Muppets and Winnie the Pooh. This little gem might just make you bawl, so look out!  It might not be as tearjerking as The Search For Christopher Robin or the "Find Her Keep Her" episode, but it's pretty darn touching.
Christmas Too opens with a jaunty little theme (the special has a nice soundtrack) and the gang all gathered at that cliff they're always hanging out on.  Christopher Robin is writing a Christmas list for Winnie the Pooh and friends, and each stuffed animal has something they want.

Tigger wants snowshoes to be able to bounce in the snow.
Rabbit wants a new flyswatter to keep bugs out of his garden.
Eeyore wants an umbrella to keep snow off of his stick-house.
Piglet's not sure what he wants.
Pooh asks for honey (of course) for everyone.
Christopher Robin wants a sled.

It seems like everyone is covered, so Christopher Robin lets the letter go in the wind, off to the North Pole.

The next day, Piglet visits Pooh to see his makeshift tree...and also because Pooh forgot to ask Santa what he wanted for Christmas!

Piglet reminds Pooh that he forgot to ask Santa for a present!  Pooh quickly devises a plan involving flying on a balloon and catching the letter before Santa gets it.

It doesn't go quite as planned...(the writers loved slapstick in this series)

But they get the letter, anyway.  Meeting Tigger and Eeyore, the gang heads over to Rabbit's house to edit the letter.

Meanwhile, Rabbit is decorating his carrot tree when he gets a knock on the door and hears carolers outside. However, he opens the door to discover...
Deagle Deagle Deagle!

Well, not really, but the scene is pretty reminiscent of the Gremlin carolers. The adorably evil Napoleon-clad leader of the bugs who constantly pestered Rabbit in the series stages a surprise attack on the poor guy's house!  The bugs devour the tree and escape without a single casualty, thanks to Rabbit's lack of a sufficient flyswatter.  The writers really enjoyed tormenting Rabbit for some reason.

After Rabbit's tree is wrecked, the other animals show up to add to the Christmas list.  As they write down Pooh's wishes (a few pots of "hunny"), Rabbit remembers that what he wants even more than a flyswatter is a sprayer "that'll take care of those pesky bugs forever." Yes, Rabbit is actually implying that he wants to kill the little bastards.  Apparently he's been afraid to ask, 'cause murder is naughty according to Santa Claus.  And God.  The special suddenly got dark.
The gang begins to get greedy and start asking for everything in mass amounts.  Suddenly, they realize that it's Christmas Eve!  Pooh is enlisted to send off the letter while Rabbit, Tigger, and Eeyore go off to find a bigger tree for all the presents.

Pooh lets the letter go into the wind, not realizing that the wind is blowing south.

Meanwhile, Rabbit, Tigger, and Eeyore enlist Gopher (he's not in the book) to help them cut down a huge tree.  Gopher is subjected to some amusing slapstick, but eventually the tree is put in the right place.  It is soon decorated with hundreds of ornaments (mostly old furniture), complete with Eeyore as an angel (easily the best moment in the entire special).

Pooh and Piglet go home, sure that they are in store for the best Christmas that one could have.  It is then that the wind blows the letter to Santa back under Pooh's door.

"Oh bother."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mickey's Christmas Carol - Part Two

Continuing from where we left off, Scrooge is fast asleep when he is approached by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Jiminy Cricket, badge and all.  Perhaps he was promoted after doing a good job with Pinocchio.
In the original record set, Jiminy's role was actually played by Merlin the Wizard from The Sword and the Stone.  I believe in another version, it was played by the Blue Fairy.  I think they chose the better character in this case.  Below I've posted a picture of them with Human!Fezziwig.
Speaking of Fezziwig (played by Mr Toad), that's exactly where they're headed!  Jiminy takes a reluctant Scrooge sailing out the door and over London (while the orchestra plays an all-too short piece of fun flying music) down to Fezziwig's building.  Inside, all of Scrooge's "very dearest friends."  Take note that one of the guests is Grandma Duck in what I believe is her only animated appearance.

I love this scene.  The music playing is fantastic (if you listen closely, you can hear that it's actually an upbeat version of Scrooge's leitmotif) and there are so many fun cameos!  Personally, I think it would have been nice if Brer Rabbit and Pluto made an appearance as well, but what are you gonna do, right?

It's a bit odd seeing Scrooge being romantically intertwined with Daisy (playing Isabelle), but Donald was Fred, so...

However, Scrooge's love for Isabelle is short-lived, as he grows to love his money more than her.  While most versions of the story have Isabelle dumping Scrooge, here he is actually the one to spurn her when he forecloses on their honeymoon cottage.  The douche doesn't even notice when she leaves until she slams the door, causing his gold to fall!

Of course, Scrooge regrets this now, but it's too late.  In a flash, he is back in his own bed.

I like how they handled this version of Christmas Past.  While it is rather rushed, I always found the past sequence to be kinda boring.  I understand that it is crucial in explaining Scrooge's character, but some versions I've seen are slow as molasses (I'm looking at you, 1970's Scrooge...TWO ballads in a row? Really?!).  Here, although it might be a little too fast, things really keep moving along.

Scrooge is stunned to find Christmas Present/Willie the Giant (wonderfully voiced by Will Ryan) towering over him.  He is soon calmed, though, by the food of generosity, which has flooded his bedroom.  Watch for a disturbing moment where Scrooge eagerly rips the leg off of a turkey.  You're practically related to him!

Willie clomps down the street and shows Scrooge the incredibly humble-but-cozy home of the Cratchits.  It is here that we meet Minnie/Mrs Cratchit who doesn't get a single line.  Russi Taylor (wife of the late Wayne Allwine, who first voiced Mickey Mouse in this short) didn't do Minnie until 1987.  Minnie does, however, have lines in the original record version.

We also meet Tiny Tim, who I read somewhere was played by Mickey's nephew, Morty.  I guess Ferdie played the other kid.  No idea on who the girl is.  Minnie had nieces in the comics, so maybe she's one of them.

Here's where the pacing has some issues.  Although Tim is adorable, we barely get a chance to get to know him before the scene switches.  Luckily, Mickey's grieving is so powerful (more on that in a bit) that we are still moved when we see what the future may hold.

In a nice scene transition, just as Scrooge realizes that Tim may not be alright, the lights in the Cratchit's house go out and he is engulfed in a fog that turns out to be cigar smoke.

Yep, it's Peg-Leg Pete as Christmas Future.  This is a big step up from the original record when the role was played by the Snow White Witch.
In what is possibly the best scene in whole film, Pete shows Scrooge the grave of Tiny Tim, where Mickey stands, tears in his eyes.  No words need to be said.  A beautiful flute piece plays on the soundtrack.  Best Tim death scene EVER, and a great example of "less is more."
We then get a cameo from a pair of weasels as the gravediggers as Scrooge sees his own grave in a chilling scene:

"Spirit, who's lonely grave is this?"

"Why, yours, Ebeneezer...THE RICHEST MAN IN THE CEMETERY!"  Like Goofy, I believe this is Pete's finest hour, despite him only having one line.

Scrooge is then shoved into the grave, falling into a coffin filled with fire and smoke in a scene lifted from 1970's Scrooge.  I don't recall being afraid of this scene, but I wouldn't be surprised if it frightened any kids.

Scrooge, of course, is very much alive and vows to change for the better.  The short then goes through the motions as he rights his various wrongs, ending with a tender scene at the Cratchits' house.

In the book, Scrooge surprises Cratchit at work the next day, but I prefer this, actually.  I think that rushed as Mickey's Christmas Carol is, the pacing really works in this case.

All in all, it's a wonderful little special, and although it's not the best Christmas Carol, it's easily my favorite.

The Muppets come pretty darn close, though...

Thanks to Digitalius for the screencaps!