Christopher Robin arrives over 40 years after Disney’s classic animated feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and the Hundred Acre Wood has changed. First introduced in the stories of author A.A. Milne in 1926, Winnie the Pooh has captivated and delighted children ever since.
Pooh’s adventures alongside his various animal friends and human pal Christopher Robin are legendary among children’s literature, and have also become equally celebrated within the animated realm, thanks to Disney’s various adaptations. The most famous of those is undoubtedly 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, although lots of other animated films, TV shows, and specials have been produced featuring the characters.
This weekend sees the theatrical release of Disney’s Christopher Robin movie, the first time Pooh and friends have appeared in a live-action project. Of course, they’re still animated – this time via CGI – but spend the film interacting with real British environments and with Ewan “Obi-Wan Kenobi” McGregor as the grown-up rendition of the titular adventurous boy. Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell also stars as Christopher’s wife Evelyn, or as Eeyore endearingly comes to refer to her “Evelyn my wife.” So, how do these versions compare to their classic animated and literary counterparts? Read on to find out.
Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor)
The most obvious change to the usual Winnie the Pooh setup is that Christopher Robin is now a 40-something-year-old man. While Christopher’s playful child self is seen briefly during a prologue in which he bids goodbye to his woodland friends, Ewan McGregor’s adult Christopher is a World War II veteran who happily returns home to reunite with his wife and daughter, only to end up working a terrible executive-level job for Winslow Enterprises. He is tasked with firing multiple members of the workforce by his slimy boss, and this stress of this somehow seems to lead to Pooh coming back into his life. Christopher understandably thinks he’s gone mad at first, but quickly realizes that the “silly old bear” is indeed real.
McGregor’s proper English accent and general mannerisms definitely fit at the older Christopher, while Will Tilston as the younger version is as close as possible in live-action to the boy.
Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings)
Pooh’s characterization didn’t really change much between the books and Disney animated projects, but the Pooh in this new movie does feel a bit different. Voiced as always by Jim Cummings, 2018 CGI Pooh looks much more like a stuffed animal than he did in Many Adventures, and has visibly aged quite a bit at that. At his core, Pooh remains his usual kind, loyal, and honey-loving self, but at the same time, losing his best friend for so many years clearly took its toll. This isn’t helped when grown-up Christopher starts yelling at him, but thankfully, their rift is healed pretty quickly.
Tigger (Jim Cummings)
Also voiced by Cummings, Tigger remains his normal bouncy, boisterous self, although also appears to have visibly aged. Notably, his coloring is also a lot more subdued than in Disney’s animation, which usually depicts him as bright orange. He too also looks much more like a stuffed animal than he has in past Disney projects, but as with Pooh, that’s likely a choice made to more accurately reflect how Milne’s books imagined the characters.
Piglet (Nick Mohammed)
While Piglet’s status as Pooh’s constantly frightened chum hasn’t changed, one thing that very clearly has is his voice. Many Adventures voice actor John Fiedler passed away in 2005, and for whatever reason, Disney saw fit to not utilize his usual replacement, sound-alike actor Travis Oates. Audio aside, Piglet – unlike Pooh and Tigger – doesn’t appear to have visibly aged, although why that’s the case is unexplained in-story. Piglet’s sweater is also now green instead of Disney’s usual pink, likely done to reflect more classical color illustrations of the character.
Eeyore (Brad Garrett)
Eeyore is another case where Disney opted not to use the character’s established voice actor – Peter Cullen – although at least Garrett has a similar sound, and has voiced Eeyore in a few other projects prior to Christopher Robin. Like Tigger and Pooh, Eeyore seems to have aged a bit visibly, but his normal sad characterization (and pinned on tail) remains. His coloring is also a bit different, sporting a bluish tint as opposed to the gray seen in most depictions.
Rabbit (Peter Capaldi)
The easiest change with Rabbit to pick up on is that, in Christopher Robin, he’s presented as an actual animal that lives in the Hundred Acre Wood, unlike most of his stuffed animal counterparts. That said, he does still speak, so it’s not quite that realistic. Still this portrayal more closely reflects his characterization from Milne’s books, as opposed to the prior Disney films. Rabbit’s coloring is also a much more natural brown, instead of the yellowish look he tends to sport in animation. Notably, he does not leave the forest and head to the real world with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.
Owl (Toby Jones)
Owl remains his wise, if often forgetful self, but similarly to Rabbit, he is also depicted as being a wild woodland animal that just happens to talk and associate with Christopher and his stuffed pals. Gone too is Disney’s typical anthropomorphizing of birds. As with Rabbit, this more accurately reflects his portrayal in the written source material. The difference in movement between the real and stuffed animals becomes quite clear late in the film, when Owl flies – rather majestically – over to a tree before he begins speaking. He also doesn’t leave the forest and enter the real world.
Kanga & Roo (Sophie Okonedo & Sara Sheen)
Sadly for fans of the mother/son stuffed animal duo, Kanga and Roo don’t get very much screentime in Christopher Robin. Still, when they are onscreen, their usual protective mother/cute kid dynamic is in full force, as seen when they believe they’re being menaced by a marauding Heffalump. Like Piglet, Kanga and Roo don’t seem to have visibly aged, for unknown reasons. They too also don’t journey over into conventional reality.
While Christopher Robin is in many ways one of the darker and gloomier entries into Winnie the Pooh lore, that gloominess is eventually overtaken by the warmth, humor, and heart that fans have come to expect from A.A. Milne’s characters and their sprawling home. Some things have changed and some things haven’t, but the essential spirit of kindness, goodness, and joy associated with Pooh and friends refuses to be denied. Christopher Robin reviews may be mixed, but in many ways, it’s exactly the type of good-natured story that today’s tumultuous social climate calls for. Pooh may be a silly old bear, but he’ll always be a welcome presence on the big screen.