Saturday, October 17, 2009

In which we discover different Pooh audiobooks

To my delight and surprise, an awful lot of talent has decided to render the classic tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (NOT Disney!) audible. I couldn't quite find all the audiobooks, but here is a list, in rough order of preference, with brief comments on those I managed to listen to. There are links to the ones with audio samples online.

The best:
Jim Broadbent, produced by HarperChildrensAudio, 2003
Broadbent has an especially lovely, plumy Pooh voice, and his narrator's voice is just what one would expect for bedtime stories. All the other animals have enjoyably suitable voices without being distractingly different. That said, owl is perfectly pompous, rabbit always sounds bossy, and piglet's voice has just the right combination of insecurity and high-pitched eagerness. This is also the only audiobook that doesn't attempt a silly soundtrack, and where Poohs hums aren't drowned in music.

Bernard Cribbins, Published by the BBC, Cover to Cover Cassettes Ltd
Cribbins is almost as good as Broadbent, but his voice a little too high to sound as cosy. Excellent
character voices.

Random House
Read by Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Michael Williams and Various
The best thing in this version is Geoffrey Palmer, who is perfectly, gloomily Eeyorish, dripping with sarcasm and self-pity. Judi Dench's cosy voice enunciating "stoutness exercises" is charming, but as all the readers take turns narrating every few sentences, in addition to each having their own characters, this audiobook can get quite distracting. Stephen Fry has a very enjoyable reading-aloud voice, but he sounds more like Fry than Pooh. Tigger, Piglet and Roo have ghastly voices. Bad enough to make one avoid all the stories they appear in. This audiobook is also riddled with silly, tinkly music, sound effects and full-blown musical accompaniments and introductions to everything Pooh composes.

Peter Dennis, Pooh Audio Books & Radio Production
This is apparently the version that the Pooh Properties Trustees approved, which worries me, as they also approved a sequel to the two A.A. Milne books. Dennis has a good, ringing narrator's voice, but his Eeyore is irritatingly feeble and querulous, Rabbit far too grating, and piglet punctuates every sentence with distracting grunts.

This isn't the worst, I just wish I could get my hands on it:
Alan Bennett, BBC Radio Collection 1998

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