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"Winnie the Pooh" will be back to his old self again next year.
Walt Disney Animation Studios is returning the honey-loving teddy bear and his pals to their hand-drawn animated roots for a feature film dipping into theaters July 15, 2011. The new "Winnie the Pooh," the first big-screen "Pooh" adventure from Disney animators in more than 30 years, will more closely resemble the classic short films from the 1960s and '70s.
"We wanted to create a movie for the big screen that had the charm and wit of those original shorts," said Peter Del Vecho, the film's producer. "What originally endeared all of us — adults and children — to these characters was that they were stuffed animals that came to life in the imagination of a child. We wanted to rekindle that imagination in a big way."
"Winnie the Pooh," loosely based on five stories from A.A. Milne's books, finds Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Eeyore and Christopher Robin searching for a new tail for Eeyore in a watercolor-drenched Hundred Acre Wood. The gang will also hunt for a mysterious creature called a Backson, briefly mentioned in 1928's "The House at Pooh Corner."
"You must be catching a cold," Pooh tells Owl in one scene.
"I'll probably catch it, too," Eeyore plaintively adds.
Pooh and company will forgo recent puppet-powered, computer-generated Disney Channel makeovers in favor of the old-fashioned illustrative style that places the silly bear and his friends among the pages of a storybook. Jim Cummings ("The Tigger Movie") returns as the voice of Pooh and Tigger, with John Cleese ("Monty Python") serving as the narrator.
While this version of "Pooh" won't be generated by a computer or projected in 3-D, Del Vecho cautioned it wouldn't simply be a redux of past "Pooh" projects. He said the film, spearheaded by Disney and Pixar animation chief John Lasseter, will feature five new original songs and a faster pace punctuated with humor that's appropriate for modern audiences.
"We're definitely resetting the franchise and using this film as the example to set for the studio," said Del Vecho. "Many versions have been done, and it's been a way for the property to live on in children's minds, but we're hoping this is a new phase for 'Winnie the Pooh.' It's a return to quality storytelling that's been absent in more recent projects."