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Peter T Chattaway

Winnie the Pooh

179 posts in this topic

And what Peter and I are saying is that we don't find unfettered "diegetic blurriness" to be an attractive quality in either films or books. Perhaps 10% of the blurriness in the film, at most, could be traced back to Milne. The rest has been picked up, snowball fashion, by the Disney-Poohp juggernaut as it rolls merrily along. In a world where there are no rules and anything can happen, we have no reason to expect any particular thing either to happen or not to happen, nor have we any cause to be surprised at what does or doesn't happen; consequently we get frustrated and bored pretty quickly, or at least I do.

In Milne's world, the animals have their own mythology. They're allowed to possess Expansive Imaginations, to Dream Big, even if it gets them into embarrassing situations. In Disney-Poohp, the Big Dreams have to be literalized for some reason, at which point they cease being dreams at all.

Edited by mrmando

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SDG wrote:

: But a preference of this level would not motivate me to carry out so fierce a campaign (against a post-credits sequence, remember) as has been carried out, so as to elicit so overdeveloped a defense as has now been rendered.

Ha! So it's the fierce campaign's fault that you overdeveloped your defense? :)

I'm tempted to go back through the thread to see who got fierce/overdeveloped first, but I tend to get bored with discussions like this once they start staring at their own navel -- once they become about the discussion and not about the thing being discussed -- so I won't.

mrmando wrote:

: In Milne's world, the animals have their own mythology. They're allowed to possess Expansive Imaginations, to Dream Big, even if it gets them into embarrassing situations. In Disney-Poohp, the Big Dreams have to be literalized for some reason, at which point they cease being dreams at all.

Yep. Like I say, the post-credits sequence in this film is indistinguishable from Pooh's Heffalump Movie, on that level. Though I do grant that the post-credits sequence in this film is a heck of a lot briefer and less integral to one's appreciation of the film, given that it appears after the credits etc.

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I think we're all in agreement, at least, in wishing that the post-credits sequence hadn't been included in Winnie-the-Pooh. The problem, however, with dismissing it as just a jokey coda is that, as Peter says, what it does to the Backson has already been done to the Heffalumps over the course of an entire film. I'd say it's just this film's most egregious example of lazy screenwriting (though far from the only one).

Though I do grant that the post-credits sequence in this film is a heck of a lot briefer and less integral to one's appreciation of the film, given that it appears after the credits etc.

Which only serves to underscore the idea that it's lazy screenwriting. What sort of writers add a completely unnecessary coda that undermines several of the film's premises? Writers who don't care whether the story hangs together and honors its source material or not, evidently.

SDG does an admirable job of [A] tracing the gradual erosion by Disney of the Pooh stories' diegetic integrity over the course of several films, to the point where one cannot even appeal to that integrity as a reason not to include the thoroughly goofy Backson sequence. Yet on the other hand, he still wishes to maintain that these films' source material has been monkeyed with far less than the source material of any other Disney film. I rather think that SDG's vigorous arguments for [A] have somewhat weakened his arguments for !

Edited by mrmando

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: But a preference of this level would not motivate me to carry out so fierce a campaign (against a post-credits sequence, remember) as has been carried out, so as to elicit so overdeveloped a defense as has now been rendered.

Ha! So it's the fierce campaign's fault that you overdeveloped your defense? :)

What I mean is that when critics make mountains out of molehills, mountains must be moved to put them back into perspective. It is a lot of effort on both sides for a few molehills.

: In Milne's world, the animals have their own mythology. They're allowed to possess Expansive Imaginations, to Dream Big, even if it gets them into embarrassing situations. In Disney-Poohp, the Big Dreams have to be literalized for some reason, at which point they cease being dreams at all.

Yep. Like I say, the post-credits sequence in this film is indistinguishable from Pooh's Heffalump Movie, on that level. Though I do grant that the post-credits sequence in this film is a heck of a lot briefer and less integral to one's appreciation of the film, given that it appears after the credits etc.

While I can appreciate this, and even agree to an extent, let's not forget that the Hundred Acre Wood was all a "dream" in the first place. Hence the diegetic blurriness that Mando objects to.

SDG does an admirable job of [A] tracing the gradual erosion by Disney of the Pooh stories' diegetic integrity over the course of several films, to the point where one cannot even appeal to that integrity as a reason not to include the thoroughly goofy Backson sequence. Yet on the other hand, he still wishes to maintain that these films' source material has been monkeyed with far less than the source material of any other Disney film. I rather think that SDG's vigorous arguments for [A] have somewhat weakened his arguments for !

I don't disagree that the diegetic blurriness further blurs the fidelity to Milne. I can still accept it as honoring Milne's work, in fugue-like variations as it were.

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While I can appreciate this, and even agree to an extent, let's not forget that the Hundred Acre Wood was all a "dream" in the first place. Hence the diegetic blurriness that Mando objects to.

I don't object to it in Milne. Fantasy must by definition employ a diegesis that's a bit soft around the edges, and Milne's shows its seams deliberately, as it were. The few objections one might raise are easily dealt with.

I don't disagree that the diegetic blurriness further blurs the fidelity to Milne. I can still accept it as honoring Milne's work, in fugue-like variations as it were.

Milne's work is delicate, subtle, and occasionally profound, crafted with a playwright's extraordinary insight into personalities and motivations. Disney's turgid lump of filmmaking has had all those qualities boiled right out of it. If you listen to Vaughan Williams' "Variations on Dives and Lazarus," you'll note that he resists the temptation to bury the original tune under a Dixieland tuba solo or start quoting "Three Blind Mice" along with it.

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I have heard some nice tuba parts in fugues. I don't even have a problem with "Three Blind Mice."

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If you're trying to say it's just a matter of taste ...

Stupid, desperate, cowardly characters are inferior to humble yet capable characters; order is superior to chaos; imagination is superior to lumpen literalism; demonstrating a moral or lesson, diegetically or mimetically, is superior to simply telling it didactically.

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I am chagrined that you are driven to such ugly adjectives to describe such a gentle and charming film. We are not talking about Babe: With a Vengeance here. This is not a discussion I have the heart to continue.

Edited by SDG

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When one constructs an overdeveloped defense, one should hardly be chagrined to see the big guns come out. But if you're retiring from the field, I guess I'll have to do likewise.

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When one constructs an overdeveloped defense, one should hardly be chagrined to see the big guns come out. But if you're retiring from the field, I guess I'll have to do likewise.

You may have missed my mountains and molehills comment earlier. I was okay dealing with the big guns that occasioned the overdeveloped defense, although I felt we were both being a little silly. I don't care to wage a scorched earth campaign, though.

Edited by SDG

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I didn't miss the comment, I just don't agree with it. A mountain can appear to be a molehill when one looks through the wrong lenses.

P.S. The only silly thing I've done is complain about the red T-shirt. I'm pretty darn serious about the rest of this.

Edited by mrmando

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I didn't miss the comment, I just don't agree with it.

If you didn't miss it, then perhaps you misunderstood it. Or else your cart-before-the-horse comment about pulling out big guns in response to my overdeveloped defense makes no sense that I can see.

My defense has been measured and open to give and take. I didn't defend too stridently or passionately. I've acknowledged countervailing points. I haven't gone scorched earth on criticism of the film. My defense was "overdeveloped" in the sense that it was overly refined and pedantically articulated in response to somewhat trivial criticisms. Nothing in my measured defense invited a scorched earth response.

Scorched earth is a bad style of argument that illuminates nothing. If you can't see anything in the film but "stupid, desperate, cowardly characters ... chaos ... lumpen literalism," etc., all I can say is, "I'm sorry you missed the movie."

I didn't miss the comment, I just don't agree with it. A mountain can appear to be a molehill when one looks through the wrong lenses.

If you think a post-credit tag is a mountain, which of us has the wrong lens is a question I am willing to leave as an exercise to the reader.

Edited by SDG

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I think we've reached the point of meta-discussion where Peter begins to get bored. The films have numerous charming attributes; that much I do not dispute. I reject the charge that I "can't see anything but...." The question is whether those charming attributes are sufficient to induce me to forgive the films' rank faults. Unlike you and Jeffrey, I grew up with a strong attachment to the books, unpolluted by any parallel attachment to the films. So my lenses, whatever their other attributes may be, are not clouded by decades' worth of warm Disney-fuzzies. I did see Many Adventures once as a preteen, and even then I didn't care for its Americanized, flattened-out, dumbed-down approach.

The comment you're calling "scorched earth" is merely a summation of points I've made earlier in the thread. There's no new information in it. You didn't call those statements "scorched earth" the first time I made them, so why do they become "scorched earth" upon reiteration?

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The comment you're calling "scorched earth" is merely a summation of points I've made earlier in the thread. There's no new information in it. You didn't call those statements "scorched earth" the first time I made them, so why do they become "scorched earth" upon reiteration?

"Scorched earth" is a paraphrase for what I wrote in response to that post: "I am chagrined that you are driven to such ugly adjectives to describe such a gentle and charming film." Whether or not there was new information, it was expressed with greater violence and a sweeping set of antitheses ("stupid, desperate, cowardly characters" vs."humble yet capable characters", "imagination" vs. "lumpen literalism." etc.) that seemed to leave little room for the "charming attributes" that have now been acknowledged. (Such acknowledgments are helpful in avoiding the scorched earth effect.)

Edited by SDG

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Hypothetical question: if my points about characterization, order v. chaos, imagination v. literalism, and showing v. telling were stated as general principles, i.e., not in the context of discussing any particular film, would you agree with them?

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Hypothetical question: if my points about characterization, order v. chaos, imagination v. literalism, and showing v. telling were stated as general principles, i.e., not in the context of discussing any particular film, would you agree with them?

All else being equal, generally speaking, yes. (Speaking in the abstract, I wouldn't want to imply that a story with stupid, desperate, cowardly characters is necessarily inferior to one with humble but capable characters, or that replacing stupid, desperate, cowardly characters with humble but capable characters would always be an improvement in a story.)

In fact, though, your sweeping contrasts were issued in the context of what you suggested I had framed as a "matter of taste."

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As Joel & Ethan Coen well understand, it's possible to make critically acclaimed films wherein most of the characters are stupid, cowardly and desperate...

I'll develop a thought or two here in a moment.

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Well, nobody else seems interested in this ... but here goes.

By way of apology: I certainly didn't mean to suggest that the characters in the film are wholly stupid, cowardly, and desperate, nor that the world they inhabit is entirely chaotic or literalistic, just that they possess these qualities in greater measure than the characters and the world depicted in the books. By and large, I don't see that these changes are dramatically necessary, and I certainly don't think that they improve the stories. Viewed in this light, the films, whatever their positive qualities might be, are inferior to the books, and IMHO what they add in terms of songs and fanciful animation does not make up for what they take away. I don't consider the films co-equal to the books in any sense.

Of course, since this is a film thread, there's always the notion that the films deserve to be evaluated as films, apart from any consideration of how well they work or don't work as adaptations of the books. But nobody in this thread has done that, or even professed to be doing it, and if I read Jeffrey correctly, he doesn't think he'd even be able to do it if he tried.

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I think Milne's literary legacy is a far greater thing than that of Disney's Pooh films. No argument there. The books are the greater treasure.

But the movies, for all of their variations from (or, if you prefer "betrayals of") the books, have qualities that I find more than endearing... I find them to be rare and even exemplary in the ghastly realm of Movies for Kids. And I do think, with their whimsy and wordplay and celebration of imagination, that they do ultimately affirm many of the virtues of Milne's books.

I remember how heartbroken and horrified I was when I saw The Tale of Despereaux on the big screen. I imagine that's not a far cry from how you feel about the Disney Pooh films, Martin. But then, I dislike Despereaux because it fills that perfect story with things that I, at my most cynical, would expect a contemporary filmmaker to add. (And it adds some truly bizarre, incongruous elements at that.)

This has been an interesting debate. No amount of criticism is going to take away the associations I have with the Disney films since they were, quite literally, the wallpaper of my childhood. But I can respect your passionate defense of the source material, even if I am grateful for the films.

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Unless A.A. introduces some obvious fictionalization into that house, or into the characterization of himself or C.R.-outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood, it seems to me gratuitous to carve out hypothetical fictional space around A.A.'s outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood narration, whereby C.R.-outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood might have a more parsimonious collection of stuffed animals than the "real C.R."

What if his collection is less parsimonious? How do we know A.A. didn't add a couple of toys to the fictional nursery?

In any case, I have no trouble identifying Eeyore, Kanga, Roo etc. in A.A.'s stories as anthropomorphized and imaginative extensions of C.R.'s real toys, whereas Rabbit and Owl are wholly imaginary animals without similar nursery-toy origins...

Is this something you infer from the text, or from the illustrations? If it's the text, which stories/passages? If it's the illustrations, whose illustrations? I'm looking at a Shepard drawing right now that depicts everyone but Tigger, and I don't see that Kanga looks any less "real" than Rabbit.

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Well, nobody else seems interested in this ... but here goes.

By way of apology: I certainly didn't mean to suggest that the characters in the film are wholly stupid, cowardly, and desperate, nor that the world they inhabit is entirely chaotic or literalistic, just that they possess these qualities in greater measure than the characters and the world depicted in the books. By and large, I don't see that these changes are dramatically necessary, and I certainly don't think that they improve the stories. Viewed in this light, the films, whatever their positive qualities might be, are inferior to the books, and IMHO what they add in terms of songs and fanciful animation does not make up for what they take away. I don't consider the films co-equal to the books in any sense.

Of course, since this is a film thread, there's always the notion that the films deserve to be evaluated as films, apart from any consideration of how well they work or don't work as adaptations of the books. But nobody in this thread has done that, or even professed to be doing it, and if I read Jeffrey correctly, he doesn't think he'd even be able to do it if he tried.

I'm interested, Mando. And I appreciate it. We still disagree, obviously, but we can disagree cordially and perhaps productively here.

Unless A.A. introduces some obvious fictionalization into that house, or into the characterization of himself or C.R.-outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood, it seems to me gratuitous to carve out hypothetical fictional space around A.A.'s outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood narration, whereby C.R.-outside-the-Hundred-Acre-Wood might have a more parsimonious collection of stuffed animals than the "real C.R."

What if his collection is less parsimonious? How do we know A.A. didn't add a couple of toys to the fictional nursery?

Equally gratuitous. What would C.R. have pictured, hearing the stories? I submit that Pooh in his father's stories would have been his stuffed bear brought to life, while Rabbit would be an anthropomorphic rabbit -- not an anthropomorphic stuffed rabbit that he didn't have. And that's the reading the Disney animators have gone with.

In any case, I have no trouble identifying Eeyore, Kanga, Roo etc. in A.A.'s stories as anthropomorphized and imaginative extensions of C.R.'s real toys, whereas Rabbit and Owl are wholly imaginary animals without similar nursery-toy origins...

Is this something you infer from the text, or from the illustrations?

Isn't it simply a description of the facts? In any case, it's how I parse the diegetic blurriness of the stories, given their origins and original audience.

Edited by SDG

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What would C.R. have pictured, hearing the stories? I submit that Pooh in his father's stories would have been his stuffed bear brought to life, while Rabbit would be an anthropomorphic rabbit -- not an anthropomorphic stuffed rabbit that he didn't have.

Excellent point in favor of your argument, given that the real C.R. was the original audience of the stories. However, it's also a point against the argument that the Backson we see in the film has anything to do with C.R.'s imagination. If anyone knows there is no such thing as a Backson, it's Christopher Robin.

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What would C.R. have pictured, hearing the stories? I submit that Pooh in his father's stories would have been his stuffed bear brought to life, while Rabbit would be an anthropomorphic rabbit -- not an anthropomorphic stuffed rabbit that he didn't have.

Excellent point in favor of your argument, given that the real C.R. was the original audience of the stories. However, it's also a point against the argument that the Backson we see in the film has anything to do with C.R.'s imagination. If anyone knows there is no such thing as a Backson, it's Christopher Robin.

1. Thanks, appreciated. 2. Nothing to add on the post-credit Backson appearance.

Edited by SDG

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Even if we could find a sound logical defense of the existence of the Backson at the end of the film, I would still find it a bad idea. It wasn't funny, it was preposterously implausible (even in Pooh land), and the voice of the creature was really, really horrible.

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SDG wrote:

: If you didn't miss it, then perhaps you misunderstood it. Or else your cart-before-the-horse comment about pulling out big guns in response to my overdeveloped defense makes no sense that I can see.

Since you made your mountain-molehill analogy in response to my post, perhaps I should clarify here that I thought your suggestion that YOU were the one responding in a Big way to someone else's Bigness made no sense that I could see -- hence my "Ha!" and all the rest of it.

mrmando wrote:

: I think we've reached the point of meta-discussion where Peter begins to get bored.

Perhaps. Though if I haven't participated at A&F since Monday sometime, it's because I've been taking my kids to kindergarten since Tuesday (and one of them to preschool, on Wednesday) and going to parent meetings and back-to-school barbecues in the evening, etc. Of necessity, my level of engagement here has been, and will continue to be, not all that deep. (Though I do hope to have an hour-and-a-half to myself at Starbucks during preschool tomorrow...) (And did I mention I was so tired I fell asleep on the couch at 9pm last night? I NEVER go to bed that early.)

: Excellent point in favor of your argument, given that the real C.R. was the original audience of the stories. However, it's also a point against the argument that the Backson we see in the film has anything to do with C.R.'s imagination. If anyone knows there is no such thing as a Backson, it's Christopher Robin.

Well put.

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