Aimed squarely at small fry, “The Tigger Movie” is by far the least ambitious, and certainly the least interesting, animated feature to come out of Disney in quite some time. A tame throwback to the days when full-length cartoons were mostly innocuous, G-rated fare that made adult chaperones grin and bear them, pic looks much like what it is, a bigscreen variation on the studio’s A.A. Milne-derived TV series, holiday specials and direct-to-vid features. Daytime biz will be bustling at first, but film’s real future naturally lies in video, where it will profitably join all the previous Pooh-world ventures as an entry-level intro to the world of Disney.
In the boisterous era of Woody and Buzz, Flik and Hopper, and Tarzan, Milne’s Hundred Acre Woods seems like the most uneventful place on Earth. No doubt looking for a way to energize the place, first-time writer-director Jun Falkenstein and story creator Eddie Guzelian have shifted the emphasis from the slow-moving, slow-thinking Winnie the Pooh to the much livelier Tigger and the moppet marsupial Roo.
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A bouncy, enthusiastic sort with the body of a tiger and the gregarious personality of a veteran vaudevillian, Tigger one day notices that there aren’t any other creatures around like him, a realization that duly motivates him to investigate his family tree. It’s a mission he takes literally, and Pooh tries to help him by poking his nose inside a large tree and rousing the inevitable swarm of honeybees in the process.
Except for brief pauses to instruct little Roo in how to bounce and corkscrew one’s tail into use as a self-launching spring, Tigger’s journey is a dispiriting one. So hopeless becomes his search for family that his friends — Pooh, Roo, Kanga, Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore and Owl — at one point all sympathetically don tiger disguises to make him feel better. But this just makes matters worse, sending Tigger out into a bitter, wintry night until he finally realizes that his true loving family has been around him all along.
Drawn pleasantly, if predictably, in the familiar pastel-dominated style (art direction, character designs and storyboarding were done Stateside, with the remainder of animation, 60% of the total, finished in Japan), pic is notable — historically, if not creatively — as the first Disney title since 1971’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” to feature the songs of former studio mainstays Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. Having scored the previous “Pooh” featurettes, the brothers serve up six new tunes here, all of which are agreeably old-fashioned, and the most spirited of which, “Round My Family Tree,” has Tigger imagining, in a very Broadway sort of way, an illustrious ancestral line for himself. But this film just serves as further evidence that, beloved as they may in the world of children’s literature, neither the Tigger nor the Pooh family tree is anywhere near the most distinguished in the Disney universe.