You had me at “tubby little cubby”

I avoid Disney movies like the plague. Nasty sarcastic little characters that teach kids without repercussions how to tease and call people names. Lurking menaces that terrify my kid. Dead mothers that set up a premise of orphan kid on its own. And gender stereotypes that have stepped way over the border of obscene. You know I won’t let my kid watch most of the stuff out there. He’s never seen a movie in the theater (we tried Horton but he was too little for a whole movie; he walked out 15 minutes in because he wanted to run around outside).

So I hesitated about seeing Winnie the Pooh. I read the reviews (all stellar) and thought about how Disney had ruined Pooh over the years. The bear himself (atrocious, orange, perky), the TV show (dastardly, trite, uninspired), and the books (“gee, Dora is popular, so how can we make the Hundred Acre Woods less British and more WonderPets-esque?”)

And then I watched the trailer. No menaces, no sarcasm, generally sweet characters whose biggest flaws are ebullience and gloominess, neither of which is foreign to a 5 year old. More important, no teasing or sarcasm or nastiness. Just sweet friends trying to pursue tasks that are very important to them. Finding honey and whatnot. Ought to be harmless, right?

So we went. And I’ll tell you I was teary one minute in. This film honors the Milne books by shooting the opening sequence in the real, non-cartoon bedroom of Christopher Robin. The slow sweep through his bedroom tells us explicitly that the imagination of a small boy is the source of all the animals’ adventures. That language is in the magical phase of newness and fluidity. That what we will see comes directly from the love and creativity of one boy.

And the first view of the Hundred Acre Woods reveals that the film is quite aware of its textual origins. At various points throughout the movie we see the set piece, outside the frame, of the book from which the narrator is reading. Drawn )not CGI-looking) images of Pooh and Piglet and Tigger bounce into the words of the text, knocking the type-set alphabetic characters into the story. Throughout, we know that the formal language of the narrator/book and the misspelled, painstakingly printed language of the animal friends are the two worlds Christopher Robin straddles as he learns to read and write. (sob)

The movie was fun. It was sweet. It was smart. And it was honest in a way that almost no Disney films are. It was a movie of a book of a turning point in children’s life.

And it was just perfect this weekend, one month before Peanut starts kindergarten. As his tooth wobbles and his letters stand proudly (and occasionally backwards) on his art, labeling and naming and telling stories.

Winnie the Pooh was exactly what I’d hoped. It was childhood captured in a moment of joy and imagination and song; supportive of healthy, adorable, bookish childhood. How can that be wrong?

16 thoughts on “You had me at “tubby little cubby”

  1. That silly old bear is still one of my favorite characters. Christopher Robin is one of the greatest characters ever to interact in children’s literature. I wonder if my older boys (ages 10 and 8) would be as enralled as my 4 year old if I took them all…

    So happy that you went out on a limb and took Peanut. The start of formal schooling is such a special time. I was always in awe to be part of it when I taught Kindergarten for ten years. Such promise, such hope, such magic. (tears)

    Yet, every years holds that promise, hope and magic. Even when you are the teacher. Even when it’s your 17th year teaching. Even when it’s your 33rd first day of school. (wink)

  2. Don’t even get me started on Disney Princesses. UGH. It’s no wonder I liked Rainbow Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, and She-ra growing up.

    Fantastia was the only movie I did like, mostly because I remember the dancing scenes and the classical music (I played the piano so I could recognize piano sounds).

    OMG Peanut starts kindergarten. *herky*

    • @glitter unicorn, I didn’t see you in there with your new email address and fancy new handle. Strawberry Shortcake, indeed. I’d be excited about the Smurfs’ new movie but I’m still mad that their one female character was obsessed with appearance and seemed otherwise useless to their society. [glower]

  3. Thanks for this! We’ve just decided around here to start giving our Monster a bit of exposure to Disney and other things that so far we have stayed far away from, to help him understand his friends and their play a little better. So far, he just lies and says he knows what they’re talking about, and until now, his TV time has been limited to watching Horton over and over again and some fabulous animal documentaries that he loves to pieces.

    Anyways, now I know I can safely start with Pooh, before I eventually will have to go to Cars and Toy Story and the rest (and try not to ruin them for him while at the same time not let their evil messages get through… any tips on how to do that??).

  4. @Maria I have faith in the kindergarten teachers. It’s the seventy billion layers of crud busybodies have layered onto their jobs that make K the new Second grade that terrifies me.

    @Macondo Therein lies my dilemma. So many people tell me “But Cars doesn’t have a bad guy” and “Toy Story is cute” but they don’t know my kid or my values. Cars has lots of menacing teasing and nastiness including ostracization. And Toy Story is scary for several reasons, not the least of which is Buzz starting off as a really nasty badass. I don’t know how to introduce Disney. I’m hoping the new Muppets help. But when I tried the Muppets last year he said they were boring. It’s really for adults, which is the problem with Disney and Pixar and Nick anyway. [shrugs. sighs. shrugs again.] Let me know if you figure it out.

  5. @ Nap: Ahh, truer words were never spoken…However, the best teacher is one that can do what’s developmentally appropriate while keeping the busibodies thinking that their crud is being addressed…Peanut will run rings around all the busibodies. Trust me.

    We have seen the Disney offerings. Toy Story’s message of overcoming jealousy and becoming the best version of you is quite beautiful, after you get over the ENORMOUS amount of merchandise marketing that the movie seems to be disguised as…Just my two cents…

  6. toy story scares me. my MIL told us it was “great”, i think we watched 11 min of it with all the fast forwarding, my husband and I kept looking at each other like, really? this is a kid movie? it was so harsh and scary. we in same boat as you, limited exposure. thanks for the pooh review, been wanting to take big guy to a real movie, i didn’t even know pooh was out there. my media force field is strong…

  7. Ooh, glad you gave it a good review. I think we are going to take ML. She’s never been to a movie in the theater before. So long as I can sneak in my non-gmo popcorn and dark chocolate, we’re golden.

  8. @Maria, I hope so. The state legislature’s busibodiness is hardcore, though.

    @Tara my media forcefield is strong, too, but my Mom told me. ;-)

    @Meg I think ML will like it. Lots of practical Pooh-ishness and then lots of whimsy and imaginative monster-seeking. Funny without mocking, silly without being lame. SPOILER: [Monster is not real, and is the result of a proud Owl’s misreading of a note; but monster does make an appearance at very end of film, after credits, as sweet monster cleaning up the traps laid for him.]

    @letmestart it’s awfully sweet. I watched the credits thinking, “Disney, I’ve been wrong about you all along. You really, genuinely want children to be happy, don’t you.” It was that cute.

    Of course, it was a noon showing and I haven’t slept in 5 years. I’ll admit to dozing off seven or eight times. So I might have missed lame bits. All I can say is, by all means, doze off a bit. It’s safe. You won’t miss anything pivotal.

    Also? 20 minutes of previews and 50 minutes of Pooh. Seriously? That’s the Disney I know and despise.

  9. You couldn’t pay me to go see Smurfs. I’m sooooo effin tired of the Token Female trope. And hey! they added more d00d tropes (the Scottish smurf, ugh). Horribly racist and sexist crap do not appeal to me, in human or cartoon form. I want to see ENGINEER SMURFETTE, SURGEON SMURFETTE, CEO SMURFETTE. Put them on screen and I’ll not only watch, I’ll buy the DVD for me and all my peeps.

    Yes, it’s still me. with glitter. I’m not moving yet…. change of plans. I feel good about it.

    The Muppets have a new movie coming out. I will always be a muppets/sesame street fan.

  10. @glitter unicorn I wish you lived nearby cuz I’d go see the Muppets with you. We could have glittery organic popcorn and chee-rriffic fair trade candy and laugh like goons. Except that Piggy’s the token female. Grrrrr. Well, no, there’s Janice. But the chickens set us back a few decades.

  11. I LOVE THE CHICKENS. Past, present, and metal. bock bock bock.

    re: SYTYCD. I didn’t care for Jess. Can’t put my finger on it. Melanie and Tadd will be the final 2. This season is awesome. Happy to see NEIL!!!! LAUREN!!! and PASHA!!!!… where the hell is SABRA? Jordan is an amazing talent – I think she was cast in the ‘dirty naughty’ light from her audition and that’s why she hasn’t connected with voters.

    re chickens: Beyonce has a new friend Copernicus. too damn funny.

    re me: I’ll get a twitter someday.

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