He’s a bear of very little brain. She’s half of the acclaimed band She & Him. This year, they come together on the big screen in “Winnie the Pooh,” which hits theatres on July 15, 2011. Actress/Musician/Singer/Songwriter Zooey Deschanel (“Almost Famous,” “(500) Days of Summer”) joins Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, performing three songs for the film, including her own take on the classic “Winnie the Pooh” theme song, “A Very Important Thing to Do” and the original end-credit song “So Long,” which was written by Deschanel and performed with She & Him bandmate M. Ward.
“This has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had,” says Deschanel. “And I’ve just been thanking my lucky stars that I was able to work on this movie, because it’s delightful.”
Filmmakers were drawn to Deschanel’s signature style. “She was the perfect choice to do the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ song—a classic theme from the Sherman Brothers,” says director Don Hall. “Her music actually embodies the underlying spirit of the movie. We’re taking something that has vintage roots in the sixties, but spinning it in our own way and updating it. If you listen to Zooey’s music with She & Him—that’s their sound to a tee.”
Adds director Stephen Anderson, “It’s a perfect way to start the movie, letting the audience know right off the bat that this is Winnie the Pooh like you know him, but it’s something for today. We wanted to keep the same charm as the original, but give it a fresh spin, a contemporary feel, and she opens the movie with so much freshness, so much energy.”
“It’s always fun to have a contemporary artist rediscover a classic and that’s exactly what Zooey did,” says producer Peter Del Vecho. “She brought her own personality to the song—when she sings about introducing the individual characters, it’s as though she’s known them her whole life—and she has.”
“I’m a big fan of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends,” says Deschanel, who also plays the ukulele in the song. “It’s really hard to pick a favorite: Winnie the Pooh is so special, he loves honey and he’s just cool. Eeyore is amazing, I love Eeyore. And Piglet is so small. It’s really a four-way tie between Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger.”
Among the songs Deschanel performed for the film is “A Very Important Thing to Do”—a song that helps illustrate the contest the friends from the Hundred Acre Wood take on to find Eeyore a new tail. She also lent her voice to “Everything is Honey” and “Pooh’s Finale,” joining Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger), Tony Award®-winning songwriter Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q”) and other cast members.
For the end-credit song, Deschanel teamed up with Ward to perform “So Long,” a song Deschanel wrote. “When I was writing ‘So Long,’ I just held the images for the end credits in my mind,” she says. “I spent a number of days tinkering with ideas, melodies and chord progressions that I thought would fit the images, the new music being written and the original Sherman Brothers stuff– but still be my own thing. The song definitely has its own feel, but also pays respect to the original.”
Deschanel plays piano for “So Long” and turned to the instrument when it came time to write the song. “I usually write on piano because that’s the first instrument that I learned when I was a little kid,” she says. “All of my musical theory knowledge is in linear piano form.”
Her heart, however, is in the vocals. “I’m always thinking in terms of vocals, and arranging a fabric of vocals is the most exciting part. I love to sing backup parts—I always try to squeeze in as many as possible,” she says. “It’s fun; it’s my style.”
Check out the video of Zooey singing “So Long” below:
Deschanel’s songs, plus the Sherman Brothers classic and a host of original songs by Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“The Wonder Pets”), as well as original score from composer Henry Jackman (“The Da Vinci Code,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”), will be included on the “Winnie the Pooh” soundtrack (available Spring 2011 in select international markets, and in the U.S. on July 12, 2011) from Walt Disney Records.