Featured Post

Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Disney Discussion - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Over the course of the year, we'll be spending our Wednesdays with Walt, having a discussion about each of Disney's animated films...

Movie #22 of The Disney Discussion
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
Featuring the voice talents of Sebastian Cabot, Sterling Holloway (Winnie), Paul Winchell (Tigger), Junius Matthews (Rabbit), Hal Smith (Owl), John Fiedler (Piglet), Barbara Luddy (Kanga)
Directed by John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Summary (in 150 words or less):
Three different shorts are merged together in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  The first deals with the title character searching for honey.  The second brings a windy day to the Hundred Acre Woods with all of the residents fending for themselves against the blustery gusts.  The final tale features Tigger bouncing all over Rabbit's garden which makes some of the residents wish for him to be banished to learn his lesson.

Facts and Figures
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the Walt Disney Company's twenty-second full-length animated feature and was released on March 11, 1977.

Box office information is unavailable for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a "package" feature meaning that it consists of three previously released short films pieced together by new interstitial animation.  The three previously released shorts are Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (released in 1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (released in 1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (released in 1974).

Because of the nature of the shorts' release dates, many say that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the last feature film that Walt Disney himself played a part in.  Despited being released nearly a decade after his death, Walt was certainly around for the production of the first two shorts mentioned above.

Let the Discussion Begin...
When your film is called The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, I think the ideal place to start a discussion is with your title character.  Ever the adorable dimwit whose only goal is seemingly to snag as much honey as possible (or "hunny" as it's so amusingly written throughout the flick), Sterling Holloway perfectly voices the tubby creature and creates a character that is undeniably endearing.  The animators certainly crafted a memorably cuddly bear and his popularity over the subsequent decades is obviously understandable.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh succeeds wholeheartedly when the focus is on Pooh  It's as the film drifts to the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood where it falters a bit. As was previously mentioned, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a package film -- it pieced together three previously released shorts with new connecting animation and a new opening and ending in order to reach "full-length" status.  Because of this, there's no driving plot and the film is only as good as the segment you're watching at the moment.  Unfortunately, after an utterly fantastic and charmingly sweet initial segment -- Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree -- the film decreases in enjoyment with each subsequent tale.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the first short's success is its focus on Pooh.  Even when other characters are thrown into the mix -- there's a particularly hilarious scene involving Rabbit after Pooh gets stuck in Rabbit's door after imbibing on a bit too much of the "sweet stuff" -- the fact that these other characters' stories are driven by Pooh helps the segment succeed swimmingly.  There's something so gosh darn lovable about the bear and I really can't stress enough how endearingly sweet Sterling Holloway's voice acting is -- a perfect union of voice and image.
While segment one focuses solely on Pooh's hunt for honey, the second short -- Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day -- introduces us to Piglet who seemingly never wants to never cause a stir amongst his friends and is always bending over backwards to please others even if that means giving his house to Owl after a horrible wind destroys the bird's home.  While Pooh is certainly featured in this segment, his importance in it is diminished and it lessens the enjoyment of the piece.
Pooh's featured even less so in the third short -- Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too -- with our narrator even mentioning that Pooh is being pushed aside a bit in order to place the focus on Tigger.  When it comes to the jaunty, ADD-esque Tigger, a little goes a long way.  And, unfortunately, for me at least Tigger doesn't cut it as someone I want to necessarily spend a lot of time with.  It certainly doesn't help that when placed up head-to-head against the cute-as-a-button Winnie the Pooh, the excitable Tigger can't even start to compete.  So placing the focus on him and the Hundred Acre Wood's cadre of characters who feel that the tiger is a nuisance causing harm to their homes and persons isn't that interesting of a subject.

It also doesn't help the final short that the utterly whimsical songs by the Sherman Brothers peppered throughout the first two shorts are pushed a bit to the wayside.  These charming ditties effortlessly weave in and out of the stories exuding just the right essence of childhood innocence to be absolutely believable in the story's setting.  Quite frankly, while the songs themselves may not be incredibly memorable, their placement in the stories may be the best melding of story and song we've seen yet from the Disney company.
Much like the songs, there's an endearing quality to the way in which the animators pieced together the shorts.  The small interstitials between segments feature turning of animated book pages in which the various Hundred Acre Wood characters walk from page to page as they talk to the film's narrator (voiced with authority and at the same time pleasantness by Sebastian Cabot).  Particularly strong is a lovely final piece of animation added to the film's final moments in which Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh travel throughout the woods talking about how Christopher is growing up, but he won't leave his friends behind.  It's such a small moment, but it's a very "adult" way to bring the picture to a close.

Random Thoughts
...while watching the film...
  • Why have I always had such an averse reaction to Winnie the Pooh?  Perhaps my cynical teenage self found the cute factor too much to take in, but as I've grown older I've apparently become less jaded because the character of Winnie the Pooh is too gosh darn lovable to not enjoy.
  • Winnie the Pooh doing exercises -- too cute, I tell ya!
  • Unlike in The Aristocats where the pencil-lined outlines of some of the characters were distracting, they work here to create a sense of whimsy.
  • While most of the songs are quick little ditties, "Heffalumps and Woozles" goes on far too long and feels like a less exciting version of "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo
Final Analysis
(Does It Belong in the Revered Disney Pantheon and How Does It Stack Up to Past Films?)
Winnie the Pooh himself is a character that I'd love to spend more time with.  He's so endearing that it's tough not to be enthralled whenever his innocence is onscreen.  It's the other Hundred Acre Wood characters that don't quite match his charm.  Don't get me wrong -- as a whole, the collective cast of characters that Disney animated are certainly enjoyable -- I just wanted the focus to be more on Pooh than them.  

Admittedly, I never thought I liked Winnie the Pooh.  After watching the 2012 film Winnie the Pooh (which we'll obviously explore several months from now), I found myself questioning why I never cared for the character in my youth.  Unlike many other kids, "Winnie the Pooh" didn't really mean much to me.  I've changed my opinion on that now, but I still feel like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh doesn't quite work as a film.  There are pieces that work okay, but the lack of a forward-moving plot throughout hurts the film as whole.  While it's certainly one of Disney's best "package" films -- remember those horrid Three Caballeros/Saludos Amigos days? -- it's still a "package" film built of previously released pieces.  

All this said, I do think that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh belongs in the Disney Pantheon solely for the inclusion of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree which is a splendid piece of animation -- some of the best we've seen so far in our Disney Discussion.  While the film falters a bit after that, I recognize its lasting effect on generations of young kids and for that it's rightfully earned its spot in the Pantheon.

The RyMickey Rating: B-

Join us next Wednesday for The Rescuers, the twenty-third film in The Disney Discussion.
***The Rescuers is currently streaming on Netflix.  Watch and join in on the discussion!***

No comments:

Post a Comment