Friday, September 14, 2018

Christopher Robin Says No to Adulting: Personification and a Silly 'Ol Bear

By Natalie Odisho

Let’s Get Lit: Spotlight on Allegory

Why the new adventure of Christopher Robin brings life in and out of the Hundred Acre Wood. 

Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh started as one adult’s solution to sleepless nights? Christopher Robin was named after English author A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who needed bedtime stories to fall asleep.What originally began as a childhood story has grown to become a pastime for the world to enjoy. Today, Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the most successful, celebrated children’s stories in history.

Now a major motion picture, Christopher Robin retells a childhood classic through the eyes of an adult. As storytellers, A.A. Milne and Disney sprinkle the magic of childhood through personified stuffed animals with language, clothing and temperament.

What is personification? Personification is when human traits and characteristics are given to non-human things. Animals, weather, and other inanimate objects may be personified to gain a human dimension. For example, ‘the smiling dog’ gives a human trait to an animal. Another popular personification you might have heard is “the howling wind”. Wind does not literally howl like a distressed person, but the personification makes such a scene relatable.

In Winnie-the-Pooh, the animals of Hundred Acre Woods are personified with language, clothing and personality to give them humanistic traits in relatable situations. We will look at how personification is used by A.A. Milne to create lovable characters. Specifically, we will be using examples of personification in the stuffed animals from Disney’s new film, Christopher Robin.

As a stuffed animal, it might be surprising that Winnie-the-Pooh belts out The “I’m in the mood for food” Song before eating honey. Winnie-the-Pooh not only speaks, but he speaks to the heart. The bear commonly drops other one-liners of wisdom. As Pooh says, ‘sometimes doing nothing leads to the best something’. His phrases and fresh perspective shed new light on a tired situation. Pooh’s refreshing spin on responsibility makes growing up more bearable for many of us.

Speaking of growing up, an aging Christopher Robin faces the challenge of keeping love and joy in his life among adult responsibilities in the new film. Responsibilities are few and far between when he is a child and is free to play in nature with the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher shares that his favorite thing to do is “nothing”.

However, as he grows—like all children, the story points out—he leaves the Woods. It seems that he cannot come back. His deft departure is celebrated by the stuffed animals who take a human approach and throw Christopher a Goodbye Party, complete with cake and tea.

Christopher Robin’s goodbye party is a milestone with personified friends, who react and interact in individual ways. In the situation, for different personalities of the animals begin to show. Health-conscious, fussy Rabbit offers a carrot in place of cake, while anxious Piglet dives toward dessert. Stuffed animals might not have parties for their friends, but Christopher Robin’s is filled with his stuffed friends who merrily chat and eat. Once Christopher Robin departs from the waving animals, the party becomes a clear changing point in the film.

Originally, A.A. Milne used clothing as a symbol in Winnie-the-Pooh. Some of the characters in the Hundred Acre Woods wear clothing while others do not. Type of clothing, color, and amount of clothing hold meaning in the story. The clothing is an extension of the characters and their personified traits. You might notice that glum Eeyore’s constantly-breaking tail has a frayed pink bow. Wise Owl has an intelligent looking glass and a pipe. And Rabbit has no clothes!

Winnie-the-Pooh is personified through clothing. He wears a red shirt and no pants.Throughout the movie, Pooh wears a monochromatic, bright red shirt. A bright red shirt is likeable and energetic. The primary color, red, showcases his simplified point of view.

While Pooh wears clothing, he is not fully dressed in the same way that the human characters are. Pooh’s lack of pants might suggest that he is not entirely human in his thoughts or beliefs, like an energetic child who runs about the house who boasts a refusal to wear pants.

On the other hand, Christopher Robbin gains a jacket and a briefcase as he ages. As Christopher Robin gains responsibilities, he also gains clothes such as a jacket and briefcase. His heavy briefcase is replaced with a light, red balloon when Christopher Robbin regains his childhood joy.The clothes and emotions share a direct relationship. In this way, the costume department of Christopher Robin used clothing to convey meaning and personification.

Winnie-the-Pooh has been referred to as many things: alleged Zen master; childhood classic, and silly ‘ol bear. This pants-less, personified stuffed animal is a memory for us all. Now, the film Christopher Robin retells an old story through a new, adult lens, bringing a variety of wise, glum, energetic and endearing characters to life on the screen. Perhaps personification will add some new life to your writing in the future.

Natalie Odisho is an Assyrian-American artist who lives in Dubai. After graduating with a BS from Florida State University, she followed the music to Las Vegas where she worked in editorial and public relations. Now her focus is on acupuncture and telling you to eat only before 7pm.

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