Blu-Ray Review: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Prologue

Thanks to a quick response to my film-of-the-month selection in the Disney Movie Club, I was able to view The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh prior to its release date today.

Introduction

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977, Disney)

My history with Winnie the Pooh is a long one, I suspect the case is the same with many Disney aficionados. For me this was a no-brainer upgrade because, in spite of my varied interests in film, Disney films are high up there. Owing to my affection for this film it was an automatic. The DVD was one of the first handfuls I had and watched several times over even in college. I do have thoughts on its worthiness for different levels of collectors/consumers below.

Program and Features

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977, Disney)

So far as the feature film goes when one has seen it as many times as I have it’s more a process of rediscovery, or being reminded of something rather than reprocessing and reanalyzing. Having re-viewed the documentary I was reminded of the conscientious effort in creating the backgrounds, and perhaps the reason – even at an early age- these films struck me so was the atmosphere was the reality, the wholly envisioned place that the Hundred Acre Wood is. Such that, even knowing nothing of how A.A. Milne came to create these tales it felt real. What the the stories did to augment that feeling was add every sort of weather imaginable to add depth to said atmosphere.

The transfer, as best I can tell, is the suspected upgrade you’d expect when going from a DVD to a Blu-ray.

The features, while there are a few new wrinkles, are where I wanted a bit more, but take that with a grain of salt as my perception is skewed from loving these stories and characters so.

What it does offer in terms of features are as follows:

Disney Intermission takes the cake as the debut innovation to the viewing process. I did hit pause and tried this out. The Pooh stories can feel timeless, and with this option they come even closer to feeling so, as kids can take breaks and play games in the Pooh Play-Along set in the Hundred Acre Wood. The games will seemingly go on as long as your attention allow and feature things like “I Spy” style games and Find the Differences.

I have not tried to assemble and use it yet but the Blu-Ray/DVD bundle does feature a kite. Sure, it’s branded, but at least it’s a somewhat proactive approach to trying to get kids to play outside as opposed to just paying lip service (and a fitting tie-in considering the story).

The five Mini-Adventures of Winnie the Pooh shorts are quasi-new. Some of them are refashioned as opposed spliced out of other new-age Winnie the Pooh films. I’ll admit to irrational Fanboy hatred of these films until I actually tried to watch some and have mostly liked them a lot especially Winnie the Pooh. Viewing these optimistically they may not just as advertisement, but maybe a sign of intent to prolong the series even with recent cuts in the hand-drawn division.

This edition, in a rather uninspired way, decides to label the re-used features as Classic DVD bonuses, selecting that option you can view the wonderful documentary The Story Behind the Masterpiece and another classic A Day for Eeyore.

Last but not least, there’s a music video of Carly Simon (Newly-recruited to sing the theme song). It’s a standard series of singles spliced with film footage, but a decent bonus.

Conclusion

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977, Disney)

So, while most of the features, new and old are good, although some were a bit lacking. Where does that leave this disc? I don’t usually get into consumer advocacy but with a home video review it’s a bit more implied:

If you like the film but don’t have it at home, especially if you have kids: it’s a must.

If it’s an upgrade, and you’re not an avid Disney collector: I’d wait some or comparison shop.

Regardless, it’s great that this film’s turn has come around and I was very glad to see it get this treatment such that it may continue on, and do hope to see more from the series in the future.

Review- Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh (Disney)

Winnie the Pooh is one of those characters and series of stories that I cannot write about without giving you a bit of personal information to help put things in perspective for the reader this way you, the reader, can understand where I’m coming from and you can then gauge what your reaction will likely be. I’ve loved this character and the world he inhabits since I was very young. However, as I grew older, more knowledgeable and perhaps a bit more cynical I cast a leery eye on the modern renditions of Winnie that Disney was creating. However, I recently gave one a chance and while it wasn’t great it was much better than I expected. So I came into the film open-minded and cautiously optimistic.

Immediately, I fell in love with this film because they brought back the live action introduction wherein we see Christopher Robin’s room. It sets the tone for the rest of the film where a new story was being unfurled in a very traditional manner but to a new generation. From there on in all the choices are a very delicate balance between trying to recapture some of the old magic and also advance the narrative in some new directions.

One very clear way in which this was done is in the brilliant job that was done in casting this film. Firstly, you have Jim Cummings not only doing double duty as both Tigger and Pooh but his Pooh is eerily similar to Sterling Holloway’s original version. What’s more stunning is Craig Ferguson’s performance as Owl because I literally had no idea who played Owl but he’s fabulous. The last and most important cog in any of these films is the narrator. John Cleese, of course, does wonderfully and the Narrator is very involved in this tale.

Which brings to mind an interesting point about this film is that the book and the text within that act as interstitials between the occasional scene gets very involved in the telling of the tale. This I’m sure must be fun for kids but it’s a great treat for the parents and adults as it’s a joke that works on a couple of levels.

What’s most refreshing about the film is not even that it manages to be very funny but that most of it stems from a series of misunderstandings. The timing is crisp and the jokes do have variety some are cutesy but some are also rather smart. What’s also fantastic is that the morals of the story fold themselves in very naturally and aren’t overly-apparent when they’re happening and also not overly on the head when told to Pooh at the end.

It also manages to be a genuinely touching and heart-warming film without needing to be cloying or schmaltzy. The characters to those familiar to us are well-established but for those new to them they are quickly and clearly re-established as is their relationship to one another and their search for the “creature” they believe has Christopher Robin and for Eeyore’s tail reflects all that’s great about each of them and it jumps off the screen.

There are used in the film many different techniques that make the film feel more modern such as the chalky animation to describe the mythical “Backson” during the musical number that accompanies it and the fantasy sequences as Pooh through most of the film cannot sate his hunger for honey.

In summation I would not hesitate to call Winnie the Pooh a great film. In little more than an hour you had two searches and two other characters had their own subplots, the songs are all good and well sung and there’s a great bit of comedy and philosophy as per usual. As a post-script I’m saddened that those who were not inclined to see Harry Potter were likely averse to going to the movies that weekend and thus you get the returns for Winnie the Pooh were less than stellar. With that in mind I urge you, if it’s no longer playing at a theatre near you, to see this film on home video please. You won’t regret it.

10/10