Miss Potter (2006) - Pick

The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh (1977)  -Pick

The legacies of two famous British authors of classic children’s stories about talking animals are celebrated in a pair of new DVD releases — one a new biopic, the other a re-release of a classic adaptation.

Directed by Chris Noonan (Babe), Miss Potter stars Renée Zellweger as writer-illustrator Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin, in a lushly photographed, gentle biopic. It’s interspersed with animated sequences involving Potter’s artistic creations, who come to life in their creator’s mind when she is alone.

Ewan MacGregor plays Norman Warne, a young, inexperienced son of a publishing family who is charmed enough by Potter’s paintings and stories to give her her first break. He’s also charmed enough by their creator to propose to her.

What links Potter and Warne is their shared sense of resistance against constraining family expectations. Potter has only sporadic support from her father, and none from her mother, for her artistic and literary aspirations. Warne has no real say in the family publishing business, and is assigned to evaluate Potter’s “bunny book” just to keep him busy. And neither family thinks much of the proposed match, particularly Potter’s class-conscious mother, who is appalled at the prospect of her daughter marrying a mere tradesman.

As one would expect, Miss Potter takes some liberties with details about its subject’s life, but it’s a winsome homage to a strong individual whose work continues to delight children today.

Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Disney’s The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh is newly available on DVD for the first time since … well, the 25th-anniversary DVD. The new one-disc set is called “The Friendship Edition,” and includes all the extras from the last edition (there’s also an episode from a new computer-animated Pooh series). In retelling A. A. Milne’s peculiar and delightful tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, the Disney animation house inevitably, yes, Disneyfied Milne’s creations, as it did everything it touched.

Yet Pooh and friends, though visually cutened from Ernest H. Shepard’s classic illustrations, somehow emerge from the Disneyfication process more unmistakably themselves than any other literary characters in any other Disney cartoon, while Milne’s distinctive voice retains its quality in with a clarity and integrity exceeding that of any other Disney adaptation. (The only other author to get anything like similar treatment was Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.)

The result, though not perfect, is among the most charming and delightful films for even the youngest viewers. Actually an anthology of three featurettes based on Milne’s writings, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh includes the well-known tales of the Honey Tree and the Blustery Day, among others. The voice work is spot-on, from Sterling Holloway’s warm, fuzzy cadences as Pooh and John Fiedler’s timorous little tones as Piglet to the rich narration of Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera in The Jungle Book). A timeless family classic.

Content advisory                      

Miss Potter: A crass word or two; some drinking; a tragic turn of events.

The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh: Mildly unsettling Heffalumps and Woozles. Both fine family viewing.