The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Directed by John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman Starring Sterling Holloway, Paul Winchell, John Fiedler, Junius Matthews, Ralph Wright, Hal Smith, Barbara Luddy and Sebastian Cabot Walt Disney Home Entertainment Release Date: August 27, 2013
Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and friends stroll through the Hundred Acre Wood to a high-definition world, as The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh debuts on Blu-ray for nostalgic viewers and eager young ones, too.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh features a compilation of three featurettes strewn together by live-action scenes set in a live-action version of Christopher Robin’s bedroom.
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, first released in 1966, follows Pooh’s never-ending quest for his favorite food that he seeks to put down into his “tumbly.” The search for something sweet leads him down a most dangerous path up a honey tree. The infectious, quaint humor found in Pooh’s obsession with the sticky substance still resonates all these decades later. Funny is funny, and though Honey Tree need not rely on over-the-top gags or sharp pop culture references, it is as delightful as anything ever created in a Disney animated film.
The storybook narrative, simple and well-structured, carries Honey Tree along at a brisk pace, as do the adorable Sherman Brothers songs. Quick “Little Black Rain Cloud” lifts the Pooh tale to treacherous heights. “Rumbly in My Tumbly” makes viewers want to hum as it elicits hunger. Every element works in rhythm, from manic Rabbit attempting to compensate with Pooh lodged into his rabbit hole, to Gopher enticing Pooh with more food. Who ever thought comfortable storytelling brilliance could be located in such an unexpected and “thotful spot?” Pooh fans, you will understand that reference and intentional misspelling.
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day introduces Piglet during a most windy day. The poor pink pig sails in the sky like a kite, dragging Pooh throughout the Hundred Acre Wood. Thankfully, viewers do not feel pulled along during this half-hour featurette. Each scene, which could easily work as an amusing little short in itself, possesses enough witty moments to arouse multiple smiles. As Piglet and Pooh wobble inside and outside of Owl’s treehouse during the blustery day, the comical touches slide around in fanciful motion.
The A-class songs come in spades. The psychedelic and ultra-catchy “Heffalumps and Woozles” – as weirdly amazing in its visual style as “Pink Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo – showcases the songwriters’ craftiest lyrics. “The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down” illustrates the rainstorm’s intensity, as it literally floods the words right off the pages of the storybook. “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” bounces with as much glee as the featured character. Though light in tension, as the edgiest part takes place when Pooh falls off a waterfall, Blustery Day blew me away with its pure joy.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too focuses around the vigorous tiger whose intrusive frolicking seem to annoy nobody more than Rabbit. The hopping hare wants to take away Tigger’s bounce. Yeah, like that is possible. This sets off a series of droll antics featuring Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit. This short, which spans the seasons, presents a wider array of the Pooh characters, including Kanga and Roo. I appreciate how this better represents the entire Hundred Acre Wood, though the storyline proves least engrossing of the three featurettes. However, the humor is abundant. At one point Tigger exclaims, “I almost bounced clear out of the book.” Tigger breaks the fourth wall between book and screen as he nearly jumps off the page.
The film shows marvelous voice acting in practically every role. Sterling Holloway, Disney’s go-to vocal artist during the 1950s and 1960s, voices Pooh with considerable regard. Paul Winchell gives Tigger more than just a spring in his step, as his tremendous enthusiasm and range is on par with the best voices of animated characters ever. Junius Matthews (Rabbit), John Fiedler (Piglet), Ralph Wright (Eeyore), Hal Smith (Owl) and Barbara Luddy (Kanga) help round out a most top-tier cast.
The painted backdrops, so carefully animated, give the Winnie the Pooh characters a centerpiece in most vivid and tastefully-transferred high-definition picture. Many Adventures, with some of the most picturesque and low-key visuals in a Disney animated feature, looks strong in its Blu-ray presentation. The Buddy Baker score and Sherman Brothers songs, along with the spirited sounds that complement the sights on screen, hold much clarity and precision. It’s not perfect by any means, but Pooh looks pretty wonderful. Disney Intermission, offering games and little bits of animation when you pause the film, bolster the overall presentation and add some amusement for children.
Pooh Play-Along encourages children – young and young at heart – watching the film to get off their feet and dance along with the characters.
Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh take snippets from previous Pooh productions and translate them into adorable little bonus features. “If I Wasn’t So Small” comes directly from the sweet Piglet’s Big Movie. “Piglet’s Drawings,” “The Expedition” and “Geniuses” also descend from the film featuring the little guy. “The Honey Song” is the only piece to emerge from a different feature. In this case it’s based on the most recent theatrical Winnie the Pooh feature, the one released in 2011. Pooh bumbles along in a world containing rivers of honey.
The Story Behind the Masterpiece does not offer anything fresh, as this was previously featured on the older DVD version, but at 25 minutes glimpses into the development behind the tales we have grown up with over the years. A new feature with legendary animators would be perfect, but at least this is included in the mix.
A Day for Eeyore, another featurette akin to the structure of the aforementioned ones, may not stand up to the quality of the originals, but this 1983 tale is still solid 30 years later. Eeyore, floating on his back in the river, swims onto center stage in this featurette that gives the Hundred Acre Wood gang the chance to celebrate the misfortunate donkey.
‘The Winnie the Pooh Theme Song’ Performed by Carly Simon comes from a decade ago, and Simon’s gentle voice ideally fits into the Hundred Acre Wood universe in this music video.
Film: A- Presentation: B Bonus Features: B-
Overall Grade: B+
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh works as a feature because it contains three charming stories in one product. A 74-minute version of one of these simple tales would not work, as not one possesses enough depth or content to warrant that much of a viewer’s attention. But the three of them collectively complete a most pleasurable entertainment experience. I gladly return back to the Hundred Acre Wood by taking in this sound and genuinely-enjoyable Blu-ray. The most wonderful thing about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is that it’s for everyone.