The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Review
Released to cinemas in 1977, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was essentially recycled content given a bit of new connective tissue and an elevated profile. There's certainly nothing wrong with that per se, and in this instance the result was a charming collection of shorter films perhaps made available to a wider audience. Furthermore, at the time, the three animated shorts contained in the longer feature were the only Disney-produced content in which A.A. Milne's famous denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood appeared. There had apparently been some discussion when Walt Disney was still alive and an active decision maker at his studio as to how to best introduce the characters to American audiences. Rather than a full-length feature film, the prevailing idea was to put Winnie the Pooh and pals in a short subject lasting 26 minutes and playing before The Ugly Dachsund, in 1966. That result was "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree," which immediately established Pooh as a "bear of very little brain" with a sometimes pernicious addiction to honey.
The plot tends to emphasize Pooh's lack of sound judgment and self-control in that he devours multiple jars of honey inside Rabbit's tree home but is then unable to fit through the hole to leave. It's understandable that questioning Pooh's signature eccentricities is akin to wondering why Goofy acts in such a silly manner or expecting Donald Duck to hold his temper. Being gluttonous and dense is simply part of Pooh Bear's nature and we love him partially despite and partially because of it. The delicate, painterly animation certainly helps. Lines appear intentionally rough, an attempt at replicating the look of the original books. The colors here are gorgeous while the backgrounds are often works of art in their own right. The entire thing is a joy to watch, and some of the most appealing animation from the Disney studio since its earliest features.
One thing missing from the initial segment is the bouncy and rambunctious Tigger. He introduces himself, more than once actually, to Pooh and the audience in the 1968 featurette "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" which won an Academy Award for Animated Short Film. It's the second of the three stories found in this movie. Here we get a very windy and stormy day that disturbs most everyone in the Hundred Acre Wood, including Eeyore who's on the hunt for a new home for Owl and Piglet who gets displaced from his own abode. These two things end up merging somewhat, causing Piglet to eventually move in with Pooh. But that's not before Tigger causes something of a panic attack in Pooh by suggesting the latter's honey supply might be coveted by Heffalumps and Woozles. Not only is Pooh unsure what these creatures are, he's terrified at the idea of them as rivals for his sweet nectar.
This leads to a fairly trippy dream sequence that also provides an odd, maybe unwanted window into Pooh's thoughts. Anytime you're on the fence as to exactly what might be transpiring inside Pooh Bear's mind, remember that this is a creature who thinks it's a good idea to wear a shirt but not pants. And usually the same shirt at that. This middle portion of the film is probably not just the best of the included lot but also maybe even the high point of Disney's Pooh output. It's a total delight.
One's opinion of Tigger, who must be a pretty divisive figure considering his straddling the line between annoying and over-the-top funny, is likely to correspond with feelings towards the "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" short that acts as the third part of the feature. From 1974, the featurette was Oscar-nominated and returns most of the principal voice actors, including the great Sterling Holloway as Pooh, Paul Winchell as Tigger and Sebastian Cabot narrating. The director's seat did change from studio vet Wolfgang Reitherman to John Lounsbery. Given the latter's long tenure at the studio, the switch is rather seamless and the only real discernible change here in comparison to the previous two episodes is an awareness, particularly by Tigger, of being inside a story. The narrator is also allowed to play a much larger, more crucial role in the plot.
Combining the three shorter films into a single feature might have been a low-risk, high-reward sort of venture for the people at Disney but it also allowed these works to be part of a larger empire by existing as a film. It's certainly doubtful that we'd be seeing them on Blu-ray otherwise. As a whole, the 74-minute effort is such a quick, harmless trifle that it seems nearly impossible to dislike. Repeated viewings are plausible, even expected. The bottom line is that the individual films are all delightful so having them together and in one place simply makes for added convenience.
The release under review here is the U.S. region-free Blu-ray edition, also containing a DVD and code for digital copy inside the case. Upon inserting the BD options for English, French and Spanish appear.
Though it may seem like a curious choice, the aspect ratio being used for the feature is 1.66:1. We're essentially dealing with three separate parts made across nearly a decade and then combined. The result does show some evidence of this, with each short not looking exactly identical. What's to love is the eye-catching appearance of what we see. The colors in the film look vibrant and really come to life via this transfer. Perhaps less of a cause for celebration for some is the basic lack of grain on display and even the constant threat of overly heavy noise reduction on those thick, hand-drawn lines. I'm of the opinion that the overall result is fine more often than not and should please casual fans and even most of the more persnickety ones. Nothing unforgivably egregious was done to this transfer but it doesn't quite achieve the rich, lightly grained look that some of us may prefer either.
Audio, from the narration to the songs and dialogue, emerges without incident. It's an effortless listen, at a consistent volume and absolutely clean. It's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the choice also for Dolby Digital 2.0 as something a bit closer to the original theatrical experience. There are optional subtitles in English, English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish. These are white in color. Dubs are available in French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.
One especially appropriate bonus feature is the short film "A Day for Eeyore" (25:23), from 1983. It obviously followed the shorts collected for the feature but is similar in style and content. There are additionally five "mini adventures" labeled as Winnie the Pooh shorts. These are: "If I Wasn't So Small" (2:17), "Piglet's Drawings" (2:02), "The Expedition" (2:32), "Geniuses" (2:32), and "The Honey Song" (2:32). These were all recently made, with the mini adventures originating for the 2011 Winnie the Pooh home media releases.
The Disney Intermission feature is available, allowing you to enjoy various activities upon pausing the movie. There's another sort of bonus called "Pooh Play-Along" (1:48) which is really just a short video promoting physical activity in children.
A few other extras have been carried over from a previous DVD release. Carly Simon performs her version of the Winnie the Pooh theme song (2:34). There's also a 2001 featurette on the making of the movie, called "The Story Behind the Masterpiece" (25:05) that is in standard definition.
Bundled along with the two discs in the package is a kite wrapped in a plastic bag - finally giving all of those kite enthusiasts something to look forward to inside a Blu-ray case.