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.