[Screen It]

(2000) (voices of Jim Cummings, Nikita Hopkins) (G)

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Children's/Animated: Tigger the tiger sets out on a quest to find others like himself without realizing that his friends, including Winnie the Pooh, are his real family.
In the Hundred Acre Wood that makes up the imaginary home of several toys owned by Christopher Robin (voice of TOM ATTENBOROUGH), Tigger (voice of JIM CUMMINGS) is a happy tiger who not only enjoys bouncing about on his spring-action tail, but also the fact that he's the only Tigger in the world.

Yet when he realizes that his friends, Winnie the Pooh (voice of JIM CUMMINGS), Piglet (voice of JOHN FIEDLER), Eeyore the donkey (voice of PETER CULLEN) and his best pal, Roo (voice of NIKITA HOPKINS) the young kangaroo, don't have time or can't join in his bouncing ways, Tigger begins to wonder if there are any other creatures like him who can.

After a search through the woods and an inviting letter prove to be fruitless, Tigger becomes depressed. As such, Roo, along with his mother Kanga (voice of KATH SOUCIE) and the wise old Owl (voice of ANDRE STOJKA) decide to cheer up his spirits by answering his letter and even dressing up like other Tiggers.

Tigger eventually catches on to their well-meaning plan and then sets off through the dead of winter to find the family members he's never met. As his friends become worried about his whereabouts, they finally persuade Rabbit (voice of Ken Sansom) to head a search party for their friend, who will soon learn that his real family has been right under his nose all of this time.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Today's kids don't know how good they have it. When I was growing up, we had four TV stations from which to choose (with one being PBS and all appearing on a black and white set), Pong was the epitome of video games (okay, it was the only video game and it cost more than $100), and bulky calculators costing several hundred dollars were the closest thing to computers anyone had in their homes.

The one thing we did have, however, were better cartoons in the form of those fabulous Looney Tunes shorts that aired on Saturday mornings. Sure, they're still around, but have been supplanted in both kids' and the networks' minds with newer, but vastly inferior animated products.

What made the shows so special - at least in our "Brady Bunch/Lost in Space" era mindset was that the "'toons" were made only for us. In hindsight, of course, watching those cartoons featuring Bugs, Wile E. Coyote and Yosemite Sam today obviously shows that they were written and drawn just as much for adults as for kids, with the ability to simultaneously entertain both.

Disney, Warner Bros. chief animated competitor, knew this as well, but didn't really get their act together in producing such products until the late 1980s when they started cranking out films that become huge hits with kids and adults alike, playing equally well to the entertainment appetites of all ages.

Of course, that doesn't mean that every production has that same goal in mind, or that they need to (although many a parent probably wishes they would after a trip to the theater and continually repeated viewings on video of dreck like "Pokemon"). Even so, when any new animated feature comes out, the big question regards the age identity of its target audience and how well it subsequently plays to them.

Case in point is this week's release of Disney's "The Tigger Movie." Based on the original Winnie the Pooh characters and story by A.A. Milne and presented as the first original film to hit theaters featuring those characters (the others were featurettes and a 1977 compilation of such shorts), the film is obviously aimed at young kids. While a smattering of material is offered for their parents (along with resurrected childhood memories and recollections of the Pooh stories), this one's priorities are clearly with the small fry.

As such, the question that begs to be asked (and answered) is how well it plays to them and whether it's bearable for anyone old enough to drive who will be forced to play parent or chaperone to them. I'll openly admit that I was never much of a Pooh fan as a child - perhaps I subconsciously preferred the edgy Looney Toons characters to the more passive ones from Milne - and thus wasn't highly anticipating a trip to the theater to see this one.

That said, the film - told and drawn in a clear storybook fashion - isn't anywhere as torturous as experiencing "Pokemon," but at the same time it isn't as clever, entertaining or well-crafted as Disney's bigger-budgeted, summer releases. Instead, it's a moderately enjoyable diversion for kids who will most likely bounce along with the songs, laugh at the young kid-based humor, and cringe in the more "suspenseful" moments, all on cue with writer/director Jun Falkenstein's efforts.

The story - basically about a character searching for his family only to learn that his friends are a great substitute - is clearly identifiable to its target audience, and proceeds along at a good clip during its short, seventy-five minute or so run. To some parents' probable relief, there's no typically scary Disney villain or a buxom heroine, and thus any such usual objections (for those who have them) are pretty much eliminated here.

The animation, while not on par with what Disney usually pumps out in its summer releases, works well here as it fully captures that "hard copy" storybook feel. Besides, the film's target audience certainly doesn't care whether a few or many millions are spent on the film's animation. The same holds true for the film's small collection of songs. While serviceable and occasionally able to get the toes tapping, the tunes (composed and scored by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman) aren't as memorable as those found in Disney's other efforts, although they serve their purpose and for the most part are enjoyable enough.

Overall, the film should entertain its target audience while certainly not endangering the sanity of those who must accompany them to the theater (or watch it repeatedly once it arrives on video). While it's clearly not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly fulfills its cinematic duties of entertaining the small ones with an often charming and entertaining little story based on some rather familiar characters. For that, "The Tigger Movie" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed February 5, 2000 / Posted February 11, 2000

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