Saturday, April 5, 2008

On Winnie the Pooh

My son is 3 and a half years old and he thoroughly enjoys our reading the stories of Winnie the Pooh to him at night, before he goes to bed. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. He really loves reading, yay!!!! He also enjoys watching the dvd we have of those pooh tales. The particular dvd we have showcases a few of the original stories Milne wrote, but, at the end of the dvd, there are two "bonus features" not written by Milne, but, rather, concocted by the Disney Corporation. These are a part of television series that Disney created and they are called "Winnie the Pooh and the Super Sleuths in (insert whatever subtitle you'd like)"or something like that. In these episodes, there are two new (that is non-Milne) characters which just bother the hell out of me; a little girl named Darby and her dog Buster. They are, along with Pooh and Tigger (Tiggr), the main characters. Mind you, all of the other classic characters from the stories are still there, (except for maybe Owl). Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo, Pooh and Tigger are all present and accounted for. Christopher Robin, however, is nowhere to be found, and in place of him, the geniuses at Disney have unleashed upon the world this idiot Darby kid, and the even more useless Buster.
So I ask, who the HELL is Darby?
A.A. Milne wrote the stories included in The World of Pooh and The World of Christopher Robin for his son (who Christopher Robin was named after if I'm not mistaken, or at least based upon). The characters were his son's toys. Watching his son play make-believe with these toys, giving them personalities, is what led Milne to create his wonderful, memorable and timeless characters. He did not write about any girl named Darby, or any dog named Buster, that I know of. What he did write were life-lessons for readers of all ages, which took the form of fictional, children's stories . They may have been written for his son, but the stories transcended the Milne household and have become invaluable to humanity. The lessons of Trust, Friendship, Sharing, Thought, Care and Understanding illustrated in the Pooh stories are some of the most important lessons young children can and should learn if they are to grow to be the good people in this world that we all wish and hope they will. The characters Milne wrote about, and the adventures they embarked upon, never focused on "learning" what a shadow was, the inhabitants of the hundred-acre wood were already smart enough to know that kind of crap. They, instead, learned of the morals listed above, which is where I believe the real value of Milne's works lies, in the teaching of kids in how to live well. The world Milne created is certainly imaginary, but the lessons he wrote of are real. My son's dvd begins with a narrator holding a book, reading aloud, to the viewing audience, the words printed on the 1st page, introducing Winnie the Pooh. He "tells" the story by reading to the viewers. This continues throughout the movie. The narrator periodically interrupts the dialogue to keep the story moving along thus remaining an integral part of the storytelling. Certain scenes are included which show Pooh, or some other character, actually moving from one page in the book to another. This type of cinematography clearly serves to remind the viewers that the stories are, and always were, imaginary, make-believe and not existing in the real world.
This is unlike the new pooh episodes, where the "reality" in which the characters of the show live, is not that of Milne's (father's or son's) imagination. Pooh doesn't "live under the name of Mr. Sanders", and he really doesn't seem all that interested in finding honey or honeypots. Tiggr still likes to bounce but he is now concerned with "solving" mysteries, not unlike The Scooby-doo gang of old. The new characters are transparent and the old ones have become less childlike and more "useful". They exist in the "real" world of Darby and her dog, not the imaginary one of the hundred-acre wood. It is the same world the children who are watching live in. A world of baseball caps, parks, and absolutely NO NOSTALGIA!!!! The imagination, which was required to create the original, is sadly lacking in the new incarnation of Pooh and his friends. The show requires no mind's eye, only bland observation. Kids can't cognitively participate in the new stories in the same way we, as children, could when we would sit down to read the stories or watch the movies. The lessons taught now, aren't as valuable as the original ones. Watching characters discover answers to questions which are, I'm sure, covered in classrooms, is just not as important a way of passing discretionary childhood time, as is watching the life-lessons from Pooh's earlier days. Learning why shadows exist is not the same as learning that you can trust your best friend to always be there for you. I think the creators and producers of this show should be ashamed of themselves for allowing such drivel to be aired on television for children to watch. They've not only dropped the ball, they've lost the ball. Darby should be sent back to her home planet, and maybe she should die in a rocketship explosion, or crash, on the way (oops, Poochy already did that), and that should be the end of her and little dog too. Bring back Christopher Robin and stop "improving" that which needs no improvement. I, for one feel sorry for A.A. Milne (even though he is not actually alive anymore) and all the children who will grow up with these lame excuses for childhood memories.

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