by D.W. Lundberg

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. As always, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints in the comments section below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977; based on the books by A.A. Milne)

The Plot: In the Hundred Acre Wood, a honey-loving bear cavorts with friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger too.
The Songs: "Winnie The Pooh," "Up, Down And Touch The Ground," "Rumbly In My Tumbly," "Little Black Rain Cloud," "Mind Over Matter," "A Rather Blustery Day," "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers," "Heffalumps And Woozles," "When The Rain Rain Rain Came Down," "Hip Hip Pooh-Ray!"

A Little History: Winnie The Pooh began as a series of popular children's books by English author Alan Alexander Milne. Milne named the character after a teddy bear owned by his son, Christopher Robin, which in turn had taken its name from a bear cub serving as mascot for the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade during WWII. Walt Disney's daughters were fans of the books and he purchased the film rights in 1961. However, because American audiences were not yet familiar with the characters, Disney decided to release a trio of Winnie The Pooh featurettes instead (tacked to the front of live- action features), with plans to combine them into feature-length format later on. The first of these, Winnie The Pooh And The Honey Tree, was released in 1966 and shown in front of The Ugly Dachshund; the second, Winnie The Pooh And The Blustery Day, was released in 1968 with The Horse In The Gray Flannel Suit, and won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film; and Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too opened in 1974 with The Island At The Top Of The World. New material was created to link all three stories together, including a final segment called "We Say Good-Bye," based on sketches from House On Pooh Corner. Disney animators outlined their backgrounds in ink to mimic the original 1920s drawings by Ernest Shepard. Songs were written again by the Sherman Brothers; as an homage to Sergei Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf, score composer Buddy Black assigned each character a different musical instrument, including a baritone horn (Pooh), clarinet (Rabbit), bass clarinet (Eeyore), flute (Kanga), piccolo (Roo), and oboe (Piglet).
How It Broke New Ground: Not much to speak of, unless you count Disney's plan ahead of time to combine all three Winnie The Pooh short subjects into one film as particularly groundbreaking.
How It Holds Up Today: While technically a "package" film – à la Fun And Fancy Free and The Three CaballerosThe Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh works better as a full-length feature than you probably expect. For one thing, Milne's stories were fairly episodic by nature, so the combined effort, I would say, is an adequate representation of the books. For another, the tone is pretty much the same across the board, so it's easier to re- adjust between segments. The movie itself is a charmer through and through, with characters that rightfully earned their place in the hearts of moviegoers the world over. Pooh and his pals are cuddlier and more colorful, obviously, than their literary counterparts, but for once the Xeroxing feels appropriate, and compliments the low-key abstractness of the ink-painted backgrounds. I like the subtle humor too; this is easily the most laid-back of all Disney films, but it's warmer and wiser for all that. If only the songs by the Sherman brothers held up together so well: Though "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" and "Rumbly In My Tumbly" are recognizable to this day, "Heffalumps And Woozles" is an obvious rip-off of the pink elephant song from Dumbo - with some of the same lyrics, no less!

Grade: B

Hold tight, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to play catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, Saludos Amigos, The Three Caballeros, Make Mine Music, Fun And Fancy Free, Melody Time, The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad, Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady And The Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred And One Dalmatians, The Sword In The Stone, The Jungle BookThe AristoCats, and Robin Hood. Please comment! Let me know what you think!

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