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The Tigger Movie

With children clamoring to see two-hour toy commercials such as "Pokemon: The First Movie" (and then screaming for the accompanying merchandise, naturally), parents should rejoice in Disney's latest animated offering "The Tigger Movie," a traditional tale which promotes friendship, loyalty and -- gasp! -- even reading!

Aimed directly at the under age 7 set, "The Tigger Movie" offers little that would interest an older child, making it all the better for the intended audience.

At a recent screening, little ones piled onto parents' laps, stared at the screen as if happily hypnotized. Gasps, laughs and cheers met the gentle film, which offered mild suspense and surprises but steered clear of any content that might frighten or disturb the younger viewers.

Bored with his forest friends' studious preparations for winter (Pooh is hoarding honey, Piglet is gathering firewood) and eager to bounce (bouncing is what Tigger's do best, after all), Tigger (voiced impressively by Jim Cummings, who replaces the late Paul Winchell) unwittingly sabotages an effort to salvage Eeyore's home and is reprimanded by the impatient Rabbit who wishes aloud that Tigger had some of his own kind to bounce away with.

Tigger's little pal Roo (son of Kanga) then wonders why the high-energy tiger hasn't a mommy, too. All of this has Tigger thinking that perhaps the idea that "the most wunnerful thing about Tiggers is that [he's] the only one" isn't more than a bit overstated. Certain that there must be more of his kind out there somewhere, Tigger writes a letter that the wind sends off.

His animal pals assemble to write a response full of well wishes and good advice, posing as his family in order to make the lonely bouncer feel that he has others that care for him. That those who compose the note really are Tigger's family although they do not look and act like him is a key point not lost on the little ones.

A plan to make Tigger feel better backfires, and he is left with hurt feelings and scorched pride. Overlooking the family he already has in his caring and concerned friends, Tigger seeks out his family tree in the midst of a snowstorm and replaces his patented "T.T.F.N. -- Ta Ta For Now" sign-off with the devastating "T.T.F.E. -- Ta Ta Forever".

Roo, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and even the practical Rabbit go searching through the dangerous blizzard to bring back their beloved friend.

While Jun Falkenstein's film unabashedly aims for the heart, its winning simplicity and freshness save it from sentimentality, and although the songs by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman won't have you humming all the way home, two truly inspired musical moments are featured: the adorable animated segment scored by the sweet sounding "Pooh's Lullabee," and Tigger's ebullient Busby Berkeleyesque "Round My Family Tree."

The storybook setting is evinced with watercolor scenic backgrounds, glowing oranges and yellows for the fall segments and a beautiful muted whitewash that covers the background and characters during the snowstorm. Even in the sunny scenes, Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and the rest of the gang don't have the neon sheen that the recent "Winnie the Pooh" TV specials have used.

John Hurt's soothing narration, accompanied by still frames and text-filled pages, underlines the literary source. Roo's adoring idolization of Tigger rings especially true in the film, and scenes pairing the two are most effective and moving.

Each character (necessarily slightly less multidimensional than star Tigger) is endearing, with familiar and well-acted voice work (John Fiedler's perennially petrified Piglet is classic and Nikita Hopkins' Roo imparts perfect excited innocence).

A far cry from the grand production one expects from a Disney feature, "The Tigger Movie" is small-scaled and just plain delightful, a family film likely to enthrall preschoolers and bring smiles to the faces of chaperoning adults.

* MPAA rating: G

'The Tigger Movie'


Jim Cummings: Tigger, Winnie the Pooh

Nikita Hopkins: Roo

Ken Sansom: Rabbit

John Fiedler: Piglet

Peter Cullen: Eeyore

Tom Attenborough: Christopher Robin

John Hurt: Narrator

Released by Walt Disney Pictures. Director Jun Falkenstein. Producer Cheryl Abood. Story Eddie Guzelian. Screenplay Jun Falkenstein. Based on characters created by A.A. Milne. Music Harry Gregson-Williams. Songs Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman. Art director Toby Bluth. Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes.