Tuesday, May 12, 2009

DAF #31 - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

“Good morning. If it is a good morning. Which I doubt.”

Title: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Year: 1977
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 14 minutes

Sterling Holloway as Winnie the Pooh
Paul Winchell as Tigger
Junius Matthews as Rabbit
Jon Fiedler as Piglet
Ralph Wright as Eeyore
Hal Smith as Owl
Howard Morris as Gopher
Barbara Luddy as Kanga
Clint Howard/Dori Whitaker as Roo
Bruce Reitherman/Jon Walsmley/Timothy Turner as Christopher Robin
Sebastian Cabot as The Narrator

Plot: A collection of three stories about A.A. Milne’s famous stuffed bear Winnie the Pooh, his owner Christopher Robin and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood gang.
Based on: "Winnie-the-Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner" by A.A. Milne.
Setting: The Hundred Acre Wood

First Viewing: 2005, borrowed from my Disney marathon buddy, Karen.

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I resented Winnie the Pooh throughout my childhood. I think I can pin point it to my mother, who also, for some reason, unbeknownst to me, resented it. Thusly, no video featuring the stuffed bear was ever purchased, rented or viewed until my junior year of high school. I finally bit the bullet and watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh simply because it’s part of the canon. I thought I was going to hate it. But I was wrong.

I found it incredibly endearing, sweet, and cute as hell. Instead of being insipid and “preschool” as I had originally thought, Winnie the Pooh introduced me to a delightful cast of characters I had only seen in passing and on the t-shirts of fat women in stretch pants at Wal-Mart. I was ecstatic to actually enjoy this film.

Winnie the Pooh is made up of three animated featurettes previously released: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! (1974). Some see this as the last of the “package films” because it was sewn together for similar financial reasons. However, new material linking the three stories together and a conclusion showing Christopher Robin’s goodbye to Pooh before he starts school were added.

After an awesomely 70's live action-ish intro feature REAL stuffed animals, we go into the first segment, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The perpetually hungry, "short, fat, and proud of that" bear has a craving for honey. So, he disguises himself as a little back rain cloud and attempts to steal that sweet gold stuff from the source. When that fails, Pooh visits his cantankerous pal, Rabbit and eats up all his honey. However, Pooh gets stuck in the doorway and has no choice but to stay until he slims down.

In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, Pooh visits his friend Owl, who's house is destroyed in the "mild spring zephyr". Eeyore sets out to find a new home for Owl while Pooh is introduced to the bouncy Tigger and wards off all the honey stealing "Heffalumps and Woozles". Later that night, a storm floods the Hundred Acre Woods, and Piglet becomes trapped in his home. Pooh rescues Piglet and Christopher Robin throws a hero party for Pooh. At the party, Eeyore announces he has found a house for Owl, which unfortunately happens to be Piglet's home. Still, Piglet decides to give his home to Owl anyway, and Pooh offers to let Piglet live with him.

The third and final segment, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, is mainly about Tigger, who, for some reason, had become a big character. Rabbit is irritated with Tigger's constant bouncing, so he hatches an evil plan to lose Tigger in the woods while on a walk. Of course, the plan backfires and Rabbit must be rescued by his foe. Later, Tigger takes Roo bouncing. When dared to bounce up a tree, Tigger jumps at the chance but then becomes stuck. He repents his thoughtless life of bouncing and Rabbit orders him to vow to never bounce again. Tigger promises and is rescued by the narrator. However, without hopping on his tail, he just isn't the same and Rabbit consents to Tigger's bouncing and even realizes that he, as a rabbit, can enjoy the activity too.

To wrap up this little trio of tales, we are given a short segment where Christopher Robin must say goodbye to Pooh and go off to school. The two talk about how they enjoy spending time together more than anybody else. AWWWWW.

I will say that Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree is my favorite of three. In fact, I would rank them from best to worst in the order that they appear in the film. And I know exactly why.

I don’t like Tigger. All right…sue me. I know he’s this classic, fun Disney character, but to me (and Rabbit) he is highly exhausting, competitive, and arrogant. With Tigger’s arrival in the second segment, I start to squirm uncomfortably because he is so irritating. By the third segment, I’m totally on board with Rabbit in trying to control Tigger’s incessant bouncing…and then I feel like a real jerkass. Tigger’s personality brings something out in me that I don’t like, a rarity in a Disney character.

That being said, I don’t feel like I was robbed for not having Winnie the Pooh in my childhood. I’m a movie romantic and there isn’t even a whiff of romance anywhere in the film. Of course, with one female character, how can there be? Part of the endearing quality of Winnie the Pooh is its innocence. (It’s about stuffed animals, for Christ’s sake) and forcing in a romantic subplot would only compromise that innocence.

So you might know that the 51st Disney Animated Feature is Winnie the Pooh, a collection of five previously unadapted Pooh stories. To be honest, I'm not that excited. Yes, I'm sure I'll enjoy it. But I won't love it. It won't make me cry. It probably won't make me feel anything other then, "Oh, that was pleasant." Pooh has his fans, you can be sure of that, but I am not one of them that needs to see another feature set in the Hundred Acre Wood. One is more than enough. But who knows, maybe I'll be surprised the way I was with its predecessor. 

“Winnie the Pooh” - Chorus
“Up, Down, Touch the Ground” – Sterling Holloway (Winnie the Pooh)
“Rumbly in My Tumbly” – Sterling Holloway
“Little Black Rain Cloud” – Sterling Holloway and Bruce Reitherman (Christopher Robin)
“Mind Over Matter” – Ensemble
“What a Rather Blustery Day” – Sterling Holloway
“The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” – Paul Winchell (Tigger)
“Heffalumps and Woozles” – Chorus
“The Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down” – Chorus
“Hip Hip Pooh-ray!” - Ensemble

Favorite Song: "Winnie the Pooh"
Favorite Scene: Rabbit decorates Pooh's rump.

Favorite Character: Rabbit

Next DAF: Peter Pan

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