Oh Bother

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 9, 2007

Filed under: Pictures 31 comments

From this news story about replacing Christopher Robin with a tomboy in Winnie the Pooh, we get this image:


I’m not going to dwell too much on this latest alteration to the world of Pooh. Disney has already more or less removed everything that made the original stories special for me, so this latest change is nothing new, so to speak. The books paint a picture of a charming, gentle world of mild adventure, wordplay, and poetry. The Disney version is both louder and less articulate. The clever dialog has been replaced with catchphrases. The characters have been made more vibrant by having all of their base traits turned up to the proverbial “eleven”. The poems are, of course, long gone because, um… Why exactly? Are kids just getting too much dang poetry on TV?

I think making the whole thing computer generated really fits. Now the visuals can be just as sterile as the rest of the show! I’m not sure why the little girl is wearing a bike helmet while standing around in a field with a bunch of stuffed animals. I think this particular zone poses a pretty low risk of head injury. Maybe they’ve put a skate park in the 100 acre woods.

Sorry. I shouldn’t care. It’s not like they burned all of A. A. Milne’s books when they made the show. Still, it’s hard not to suffer from some “Han Shot First” fanboy incredulity. It’s saddening to see beloved works reprocessed like this, and I can’t help but wish they’d just make up the story they wanted instead of Disney-fying this one.

Anyway, that’s not the interesting thing about this image. No, the interesting thing about this image is that it makes no sense, visually. Sadly, the version with the news story is only 180×180, but I’ve blown it up here so we can have a closer look.


Question: What direction is the sun shining?

The shadows all indicate that the sun is to our right and shining towards the viewer, but if you look at Pooh’s behind it looks like there is light coming from this side of him. Tigger is backlit. Piglet is being lit from above. The girl looks like she’s rendered in full brightness, without any shadows whatsoever. She looks like she’s glowing in comparison to the other characters. I suppose you could argue that everyone aside from the girl is lit from from a nearby light source directly above, which could explain the character-specific variations in apparent light direction, although that still doesn’t explain their shadows. I can’t help thinking Pooh looks like he’s actually getting hit by two lights, the one producing the bright highlight on his head, and the one illuminating his back.

In any case, the trees in the background aren’t casting any sort of shadows on the ground, and you could make the case that they look like they’re lit from our left. The grass looks nice, but it doesn’t match the style of the characters. It’s too washed out and the blades are too distinct.

I’d give this a pass if this image was a screenshot from something rendered in realtime, but for a pre-rendered show this is cave-drawing primitive. This is the CGI equivalent of South Park animation. This is the image you hand out with your press release? There are armies of kids out there who could crank out better images using Blender and their home PC. Maybe Disney should get back in touch with Dick Van Dyke and get some help with their rendering.

So… they may be abusing a beloved classic with over-merchandising and political correctness, but at least they’re doing it really poorly.

Furry Bear

If I were a bear,
And a big bear too,
I shouldn't much care
If it froze or snew;
I shouldn't much mind
If it snowed or friz â€"
I'd be all fur-lined
With a coat like his!

For I'd have fur boots and a brown fur wrap,
And brown fur knickers and a big fur cap.
I'd have a fur muffle-ruff to cover my jaws,
And brown fur mittens on my big brown paws.
With a big brown furry-down up to my head,
I'd sleep all the winter in a big fur bed.


From The Archives:

31 thoughts on “Oh Bother

  1. Bill says:

    Writing Christopher Robin out really undermines the whole point of the books.

    What he would of thought is probably another matter. He wasn’t that happy being overshadowed for most of his life by a teddy bear he’d been given as a first birthday present.

  2. Knastymike says:

    Maybe Christopher Robin’s parents had another kid after the conclusion of “The House on Pooh Corner”? Only decades later. And this kid’s X-TREME!!!

  3. Shandrunn says:

    “There are armies of kids out there who could crank out better images using Blender and their home PC.”


    Bit optimistic, aren’t we Shamus?

  4. Russ says:

    I have been looking for more stills, but even though it comes out this spring, there are none to be found. So Shamus, hopefully this is just the press release screenshot from 2005. Also, Christopher Robin will still be in the 100 Acre Wood, sounds like the Tomboy, her dog Buster(sigh) and Pooh and the gang will bump into him. At least Peter Cullen is voicing Eeyore.

    In my searching, I also found this:

    It seems that the Disney Juggernaut can’t leave anything alone…Brittany Murphy voicing a character who is best left silent? Good grief…

  5. Sartorius says:

    Disney is a festering cyst on Anglophonic civilization. Everything they touch turns rancid and corrupt. In their wake they have left the tainted wreck of great literature from “Alice in Wonderland” to “The Wind in the Willows”. And now their newest mockery of “Winnie the Pooh” is slightly more putrid than their old one. Somehow, not a terribly great surprise.

  6. AngiePen says:

    Disney execs say the idea is to bring an older audience

    So… wait. They hope to bring in more older people to watch Pooh, by messing around with something we already know and have fond memories of? Umm, right. Sure. Or conversely, if these older people had not already liked Pooh when they were young, then adding some six-year-old girl to the mix is going to change their minds? Ummm, sure. [facepalm]


  7. Chilango2 says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call “political correctness” the culprit that led to this, more like “misplaced corporate marketing thinking, wherein the story need to be ‘modernized’ to be ‘cool'” or somesuch. Like a previous poster said, this kid is “xtreme!” and probably pretty one-dimensional, as opposed to the subtler and more complex Christopher Robin. In other words, the point isn’t that they replaced a boy with a girl, its that they replaced a story with flashy, loud, animation sequences and characters because they have a blakc hole where there creative soul used to be.

  8. ngthagg says:

    The first I noticed about the shadows is that they don’t seem connected to the feet.

    Regarding Disney in general, I had hoped when John Lasseter (the Pixar guy) took over as Chief Creative Director things would get a bit better, but I haven’t seen it yet.


  9. Like Star Wars, Pooh and Company are all about toy sales anyway. Now there’s a new figurine to buy.

  10. Liritar says:

    My gods. Even as a pretty strong feminist, I can’t think of a reason to do that. Yeah, it would be cool to have more tomboy characters. Give her her own bloody show. Don’t mess with the Milne.

  11. M says:

    Wait, I thought Disney was about to lose all rights to A.A. Milne’s stuff?

  12. Teague says:

    FWIW about the helmet, Tigger is wearing a helmet, too, so it looks like they are getting ready to go on an adventure or play a game…..

  13. Rufus Polson says:

    Rights? Isn’t it public domain?
    I strongly suspect that the horror of Disneyfied Winnie ther Pooh was the main driver behind the British making a special law to keep Beatrix Potter in perpetual copyright. Disney can never touch it now, thank goodness. The people responsible for Disney Winnie the Pooh must die.

    . . . Tigger *is* wearing a helmet, isn’t he? Yet another sign, if any were needed, that something is very, very wrong. Tigger would never wear a helmet. Piglet might wear a helmet, because he is a timorous animal. Pooh might wear a helmet if one convinced him it was the Thing To Do While (type of adventure here). Roo might wear a helmet if Kanga picked him up and stuffed it on his head. Tigger would never, ever wear a helmet.

  14. Enas Yorl says:

    The helmet thing is easy to explain – they’re wearing thudguards.

  15. refugee says:

    Why is Pooh holding a RAM stick?

    And see Lilek’s comment on the girl and the helmet.

  16. Bill says:

    “…Beatrix Potter in perpetual copyright…”

    That’s Peter Pan. Which has more to do with the copyright owner being the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children (and even Disney hasn’t got the balls to argue with them in an English court).

  17. Shamus says:

    Shandrunn: By Blender I mean “whatever is free and people are using”. By kids I mean “people that are younger than me”. :)

    Liritar: I agree. If you want a positive girl character, she shouldn’t be standing on the shoulders of an established boy character. See also: Spider-Girl, Bat-Girl, Super-Girl, et al.

    refugee: I got the link from Lileks. Shoulda given him a hat tip.

  18. Tirgaya says:

    The “sun” is shining from fairly high on the upper right of the picture and outwards on a diagonal out of the screen near the lower middle of the picture. Pooh’s shadow does connect to his feet… but it does so slightly behind him and to the viewers right.

    The “aura” around Pooh is generated by radiosity… and can be observed on real objects. Don’t believe me, then trust your own glassies. Step outside and viddy it yourselves my brothers. Basically it isn’t the “sun” lighting Pooh that way, its the sky and Pooh himself, reflecting the sun.

    The scene does have too much ambient light. That could be because they turned on radiosity and didn’t turn “ambient lighting” down. It could be a stylistic choice. In any case it exacerbates the oddness of the effect.

    Another thing, the sun was probably not the most accurate “sun type” light, a “distant light,” but was probably an area light set a bit too close to the character models.

    There are a million things to complain about this picture, but the lighting is accurate. It was probably generated in a simple low poly scene all at once in a 3D application, and the render was optimized for speed.

    The main confusion is the blending of simple cartoonish objects and colors with “realistic” rendering models. This creates a confusion of expectations. Nobody draws radiosity in cartoons, so we don’t expect to see it. Stuff like that. Its the reverse of the “Uncanny Valley,” basically what we expect to be an unreal scene has too much reality.

  19. Carmelvineyard says:

    Wow…. this may actually inspire me to read the original Milne with my kids, as I only know the Disney version.

    And the ruining of Disney spreads also to the classic fairy tales, which had to be cleaned up and made less bloody… and one could argue to the entire state of Florida, which in at least one sense exists in The Shadow of the Mouse.

  20. Matt says:

    What in hell is that in Pooh’s hand…. I’m quite confused by that

    Also, as has been said, no helmet on Tigger, it just doesn’t fit – he’s the one person in the story who could fall off a cliff and bounce back up onto his feet without suffering any damage.

    Christopher Robin being replaced with a tomboy girl.. oh boy, where to start. I could rant on about how every cartoon movie seems to need some obnoxious “xtreme” kid (or equivalent character depending on the movie) as the front person in a sad attempt to appeal to what the movie people see as being young culture. But I have better ways to spend my time (such as sleeping, or eating) so I won’t

  21. I suspect what Pooh is holding is a clipboard with a list of names, and he’s taking roll call. The little girl is saying “Present!” or “Here!” or some such.

  22. Daniel says:

    Shadows look to soft for sunlight and I am guessing they have the GI cranked up. Also I think the light is close to the scene there so that makes the scene look weird they should use a distant light. You could probably do better in Blender with time.

    The texturing could use some work from wha tI see too. this is a common thing I see in cheap animation is lame texturing. I don’t get it really texturing is nto the hardest part it is the animation itself they often do that fine. I coudl knowck out those characters relativly quick particularly poo he seems to be poorly done considering he is the main character. Need a bigger pic though. Anyways have to get back to my 3D stuff myself have fun.

  23. Dan says:

    I’d bet they’re just using an unconventional mixture of lights, one that cannot exist in the real world. To wit:

    Most of the light in the seen seems to be coming from an ambient source.

    The characters additionally seem to be lit by a nearby spotlight that is casting heavily on the specular channel, and shadows are being computed on this light.

  24. Adam says:

    Russ wrote:
    “It seems that the Disney Juggernaut can't leave anything alone…Brittany Murphy voicing a character who is best left silent? Good grief…”

    Next summer, disney does Half-life.

    (just kidding, maybe)

  25. Shandrunn says:

    Black Mesa adventures! With Gordon, Barney and as comic relief Frank the Lovable Headcrab!

  26. James Blair says:

    It’s kinda funny reading all these people declare Disney evil because of a single promo picture, knowing ZERO about what actually might be done with it. Since we don’t know what they’re going to do with the character yet, there’s no certainty the result will be bad. They replaced the cartoon’s worst character, in my opinion, though that’s no guarantee with replacement will be better.

    Different, even from a good thing, doesn’t necessarily equal bad. Sometimes it does (see Master of Orion III), but not always.

  27. James Blair says:

    That being said, who let a GIRL into the clubhouse? Isn’t that illegal or something? The Guild of 100-year old All-Male Tales surely has a bylaw or two about this…

  28. Fernmonkey says:

    I think it was obvious that the Disney Pooh adaptations were an abomination when they put Winnie-the-Pooh into a red T-shirt, and made Eeyore SMILE.

    Eeyore smiling!

  29. Oleyo says:

    Ooooooooooooooooh, NOW we see the power of Blender, huh?! :)

  30. Telas says:

    From the Thudguard site: Learning to walk in a world of hard surfaces can turn a special moment into a heart rendering incident in a flash.

    Flash can render hearts in an instant?

  31. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    **snort** Thanks, Telas. Not sure if I’m most upset over having to clean my kybd (again…) or wasting a shot of good XS energy drink.

    I will warn those of you who might read this right up front: I have been known to sit on a fence or two. Or maybe I haven’t.

    I don’t wholly subscribe to the “Disney as Evil Empire” point of view. As far as I am concerned, the House of the Mouse is welcome to every dollar he gets from the masses (yes, even me). Disney is about marketing and they do it dam…er, REALLY well (sorry, Mom). My wife and son love to shop in their stores so I humour them (not really one for noisy crowds, myself), but I am the critical eye – I will strive to point out any flaws I see in the clothing/toys/gew gaws on which they wish to spend my hard-earned (well, mostly) money. (In case you are in the market for a new one, their selection of coffee mugs is generally quite good and you can almost always get them on special.)

    Having said that, I find that the fare which has recently begun spewing (that is most certainly the word I want to use) from their animators is, at best, feature length advertising. At worst, these (primarily) direct-to-DVD travesties are horrifying rip-offs of classic tales which should be enjoyed in their original (even historic) forms. The current formula employed by the Flat of the Rat (sorry, couldn’t resist) is a classic two-pincered attack. The first level involves:
    1. Take an old story and clean it up for public consumption. Add cute (most likely animal-based) characters who have little or nothing to do with the original tale. Release in theatres amid much hoopla and a slew of McDonald’s toys. What else are cute add-on characters for? Plot development? Please!
    2. Make an obscene amount of money which could (with creativity) (oh, and compassion) solve the poverty issue for a third of the world’s poorest nations. Entertain millions of children. Entertain their parents, too, at least the first time.
    3. Renew interest (and toy sales) by releasing (direct-to-DVD) “sequels”, most likely focusing on the cute add-on characters. Entertain millions of chil…no, wait, that’s wrong. Stuff someone’s bookshelf/entertainment storage unit with DVD cases for movies which the kids fell asleep watching. Rip off their parents, too.
    4. Repeat step 3 until sales are non-existent and park employees dressed as those characters begin to receive death threats.
    5. IMMEDIATELY upon step 4 completing, announce that the movie is going “into the Vault”, never to be seen again (until the death threats end and nostalgia sets in). This leads us into the second level of the attack:
    1. Release beloved movie from the Vault amid much hoopla and a slew of McDonald’s toys.
    2. Follow steps 2-5 from the above.
    3. Continue raking in cash until the entire world is bled dry and the Mouse pwns j00.

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