“Well, that was sweet,” Dania said, as the initial credits began to appear on screen. “It ended sort of abruptly, but whatever.”
“I forgot how good it was!” Eleanor said. “I mean, I remembered that it was good, but it all comes back now…”
Eleanor curled up in a ball on the couch. Memories of being in elementary school and watching The Tigger Movie returned to her, and she – perhaps unfoundedly, but feelings are feelings – felt safe.
“It’s…” Gwen began. She pondered the movie, which packed quite a lot into its 77-minute runtime, leaving her wanting more, yet oddly satisfied, looking back in retrospect.
“A really good movie,” Eleanor said. She sat up straighter. “And if you try to tell me it’s not, I’ll fight you on this.”
“No, it’s a fine movie.” Gwen hesitated. “It surprised me, I’ll give it that.”
“I mean, I’m obviously giving it a handicap, since I grew up with it,” Eleanor admitted, still grinning. “But you can’t say it’s bad. Simple, maybe, but…”
“I didn’t grow up with it, and I’m in love,” Dania agreed. “It’s funny and nice. I just love all the Hundred Acre Wood characters so much, you know?”
“Yeah,” Eleanor hummed. “I think that’s the one thing about all the direct-to-DVD Winnie The Pooh movies – and don’t get me wrong, I love all of them – but there’s something about The Tigger Movie where the characters…feel right, you know?”
Gwen nodded in agreement. “I’d say so.”
“Like, with a lot of the Disney DVD-movies,” Eleanor continued, “they have to fit the characters into this new plot, so they either become unlikeable or totally act in ways they wouldn’t. Like, watch any of the other movies and Rabbit is just a massive pill the whole time.”
“Or Eeyore is too sad,” Dania suggested.
“Or they don’t know what to do with him, sure. Even in the 2011 movie, the characters are just a little too stuck in their own personalities to actually talk with each other. The Tigger Movie gets the between-character relationships right. The way that characters deal with Tigger without being angry at him.”
“Except Rabbit,” Gwen pointed out.
“Except Rabbit, obviously,” Eleanor said, before quickly adding: “Isn’t that interesting? A whole movie about Tigger and the antagonist is not Rabbit? Like, Rabbit is barely here!”
“It’s a more interpersonal conflict,” Gwen said. “Internal for Tigger. It’s about the pressure of social obligations around families – how we define them, what it means to be accepted into one, the limits of familial tolerance for deviation…”
Dania groaned. “Gwen, please speak real words, it’s a Winnie The Pooh movie.”
“That’s the strangest part of it,” Gwen added. “It’s a surprisingly nuanced and dark movie. Under the surface, I mean.”
“Yes, exactly!” Eleanor said, with a smile. “The final scene, with the avalanche – like, there’s a real chance of death in that scene!”
“I’m stuck on the image of Tigger pulling the masks off his friends,” Gwen said. “The amount of emotional gaslighting that happens here. Not always intentional, but the impact is real.”
“Plus I just love the part about Roo wanting to have an older brother,” Dania said. “Tigger always did feel like he was sort of Kanga’s age but Roo’s best friend. He’s like a school-leaver who’s still hanging around the high school kids. Which I guess fits into what you’re saying about families and stuff, Gwen.”
“Exactly,” Gwen said. “In other Winnie The Pooh media, Tigger’s presence is treated as a source of conflict, but also a given circumstance. That the plot of this movie revolves around where he came from, and the daily struggle of the rest of the gang to put up with his bouncing is significant.”
“It’s also not one-sided, is the thing,” Eleanor said. “Like, they start out, and everyone is biting their tongue to stop from criticizing Tigger. Which, you know, is a good message for kids – be tolerant of other people’s personalities. But the movie also makes it clear that there’s a line to be drawn, because once they cross it, we can feel it won’t end well.”
“That’s the line of ‘pretend to be Tigger’s family,’ right?” Dania asked.
“Perpetuating his delusions, yes,” Gwen said. “It’s not an easy balance to strike…and I’m not certain it’s perfectly struck…but the attempt is there.”
“Yeah, he never really finds out that he has no family,” Dania pointed out. “Sure, by the end the whole ‘your family is the people you’re with’ message is driven home, but he still thinks that the other Tiggers are out there.”
“I don’t read it like that,” Eleanor said. “There’s something about that shot where he lets the letter fly away that signals that he’d given up.”
“That’s before Rabbit and everyone show up at the tree, though, right?” Dania asked. “When he says that he’s staying to wait for his family? Wouldn’t he still have to believe about them then?”
“Well, maybe it’s unnecessarily dark…” Eleanor began. She scrunched her eyebrows, considering the thought. “…I always thought that if the others hadn’t shown up, he was just gonna die in the tree. Like, that he’d resigned himself to it.”
Gwen’s eyes widened – Dania’s did as well.
“That’s aggresively dark,” Dania shuddered. “In The Tigger Movie? You were projecting Tigger’s passive death in The Tigger Movie?”
“It’s dark all throughout!” Eleanor defended. “don’t tell me it wouldn’t be in tone for the rest of the movie!”
“She’s not wrong,” Gwen shrugged. “The whole movie takes itself unusually seriously. Tigger and Roo waiting at the mailbox for an entire day could be a standard plot device in a Winnie The Pooh story, but when we cut back to them and they’re despondent to not get a letter from the family…there’s a strand of betrayal that runs through the film.”
“Using all the tropes of a Winnie The Pooh movie, too,” Eleanor added. “Like, there’s real drama, but it all comes from the same world that the other Winnie The Pooh stories live in. It’s not like they dropped in a dead parent or a logging company or some other non-Milne plot device.”
“I totally called it, by the way,” Dania said. “The moment Owl said the words ‘family tree,’ I was like, ‘Tigger’s going to think it’s a literal tree and go looking for it,’ and I was absolutely right.”
“Because it’s within the world of the story,” Eleanor agreed. “That’s what I mean by the language of a Milne story. They just cranked the drama and stakes up to eleven.”
“As well as placed a greater focus on internal struggle rather than interpersonal ones,” Gwen mentioned. “Which is, I think, why Rabbit is almost a non-presence here. His relationship to Tigger is not what the movie is about.”
“It’s about the people who don’t stand up to him,” Eleanor agreed. “And what happens to force them to.”
“Also,” Dania said, shifting weight on the couch. “To look at something that’s not buried in six layers of subtext…”
“It’s not that deep,” Eleanor said. “Maybe two layers.”
“Whatever,” said Dania. “Let’s talk music for a sec, because I’m going to have the “Whoop-De-Dooper Bounce” song stuck in my head all day, and I blame you.”
“The score is so good!” Eleanor chimed. “I used to have all the words to the Family Tree song memorized as a kid.”
“Who did the score?” Gwen said. She pulled out her phone, opening the IMDB app.
“I need to go back and rewatch it, there’s a ton of cultural allusions in ‘Family Tree’ that I missed as a kid,” Eleanor said to herself. “I need to slow it down.”
“I got the art ones,” Dania commented. “Whistler’s Mother, the melting watches, Blue Boy…after that I tapped out.”
“I will definitely say that the phrase ‘Goldtiggers Of Broadway’ might be my favorite part of the entire movie,” Gwen added. “What a niche joke.”
“I think all the best kids movies do that, right?” Dania posited. “Throwing in references that are going to go over kids heads, but that they can rewatch years later and understand?”
“Random references, too,” Eleanor agreed. “I’m not sure that all adults will pick up everything they put in.”
“I guess that’s effort,” Dania suggested. “It proves that people working on the movie cared. But that’s fairly obvious in the fact that it’s not bad. It definitely doesn’t feel like they had to make it. Someone wanted to.”
“Jun Falkenstein’s the director,” Gwen said, clicking a link on her phone. “She’s done other Winnie The Pooh movies, stuff for Monster High…she was going to direct Curious George but left over script disagreements.”
“Proves she won’t just direct anything,” Eleanor said. “Nothing else notable?”
“Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas,” Gwen said. “But it looks like she’s been working under the radar.”
“Well, she knocked it out of the park with this one,” Dania said. “Maybe she’ll do more in the future.”
“And the songs are by…” Gwen scrolled down the page, before suddenly holding with her jaw wide open.
“It’s the Sherman Brothers!” Gwen gasped. “The ones who did the music for Mary Poppins and it’s a small world and the original Winnie The Pooh from the 70s!”
“That makes complete sense,” Eleanor said, beaming. “They’re so great! It sounds just like all the older songs.”
“Apparently the film was supposed to go straight to DVD,” Gwen read. “But Michael Eisner liked the songs so much he decided to send it to theaters!”
“Amazing!” Eleanor cheered. “Well, then. Now I know I’m right to think it’s good.”
“I mean, you knew that anyway,” Dania said. “It’s your opinion. You offered to fight us on it.”
Eleanor snuggled up on the couch again. In her head, the lyrics to “Round My Family Tree” were beginning to float back:
…there’s the glamorous branch,
and the amorous branch
of my fabulous fam’ly tree
and when we sing together,
we’re in perfect harmony!
Image Credit: Disney Wiki