The first teaser trailer has dropped for Christopher Robin, Disney’s live-action continuation of the Winnie-the-Pooh saga and boy is it creepy. Featuring a disgruntled Ewan McGregor as the gracefully aging eponymous hero, the sepia-hued trailer shows Christopher Robin at what appears to be the crux of a midlife crisis when a silly old friend sneaks up behind him in the park to say hello.
Let us put aside the fact that Pooh seemingly tells his old playmate that he looks like a pile of crap in an expensive suit. Let’s also roll with the fact that the return-to-childhood schtick is well-trod ground that yields mixed results — see 1991’s Hook featuring a manic Robin Williams as an aged and hirsute Peter Pan.
Instead, let’s focus on Pooh himself. There is something incredibly disconcerting about the ultra-realistic CGI honey addict. Clearly, the creators have taken great pains in the character’s accuracy as an imagination-animated stuffed animal. But in just the few seconds Pooh is on screen, it seems like they may have sacrificed charm for realism.
Maybe it’s the eyes. To quote a famous New England fisherman: “He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.” When he pops up behind Christopher Robin, sitting in an autumnal park, the effect is disquieting. More than that, as his tiny mouth moves, the bear face looks empty of expression. This is a chubby little cubby all stuffed with terror. Take a look for yourself:
It’s possible that director Marc Forster (the World War Z director whose last foray into kid-territory, Finding Neverland, was highly feted) wanted to distance himself from other animated and/or stuffed bears such as Paddington and Ted. Paddington’s animator’s really nailed the realistic look and soulful spirit of the marmalade-loving bear. And, for all Ted’s dope smoking, rollicking, Seth MacFarlane gross-out wildness, there was something deeply lovable about the character. The Pooh presented by Christopher Robin’s first trailer is stiff in comparison.
The effect is made more strange by the fact that veteran voice actor Jim Cummings is doing a dead-on impression of Sterling Price Holloway Jr. who voiced the original Pooh in 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Most parents will remember the old animated Pooh as a highly expressive hero. And on first blush, CGI Pooh does not measure up to his pastel-hued predecessor.
Let’s all hope that future trailers will reveal the storied Heffalump hunter to be far more expressive and lovable, and far less like a cohort of demonic Annabelle. For the children’s sake.