Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, the wonderful thing about Pooh bear is he’s such a lovable thing. On this day in 1977, Walt Disney Studios released the feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which is actually a compilation of three short films. Walt always wanted to make a feature-length Pooh film, but that wouldn’t happen until 2011, unless you count spinoff films like Piglet’s Big Movie and The Tigger Movie. The 1977 release includes the last animation Walt personally worked on with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) as well as some timeless Sherman brothers songs. The film overall remains one of my favorite Disney classics.
Disney’s acquisition of rights to A.A.Milne’s classic stories was actually quite easily gained (certainly not as dramatic a tale as Saving Mr. Banks). Milne was criticized by some even in his own family (eh hem Christopher Robin) for allowing Disney to market Pooh as they did. There’s really no arguing with how successful Disney has been with the Pooh franchise, though, for better or worse from the perspective of Milne fans. Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet are some of the highest earners for merchandise and entertainment for children nearly fifty years after the first Pooh short was well received by audiences.
In the 1977 feature, we get to enter the 100 Acre Woods through the book itself as our narrator (Sebastian Cabot) whimsically takes us from situation to situation with our hero, the stuffed bear of very little brain, Pooh (Sterling Halloway). Of course, some of the most memorable moments in the film are meeting Tigger, voiced by the incredible Paul Winchell who ad-libbed the hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo and ta-ta-for-now lines, as well as Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s door. The scene when Rabbit paints Pooh’s behind was supposedly one of Walt’s favorite pieces of animation from any of his films. Other tidbits about the film are that the backgrounds were painted to match the original illustrator, Ernest Shephard’s sketchy style, Gopher was originally included to replace Piglet and since 3 different actors voiced Christopher Robin in the original shorts, another actor, Timothy Turner, voiced over all three for the 1977 release.
What’s great about this film (these shorts?) is that they/it are simple in a way, while being extremely deep and touching. There is actually a series of books about the “tao of Pooh,” which go much deeper into this idea of Pooh being spiritually enlightening. The Disney films are magical and spiritual in their way, too. If only we could humble ourselves to be more like Pooh and look at the world in a more childlike, innocent way. Simple truths like the importance of friendship, individuality, empathy and wonder are all prevalent themes in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and if you haven’t watched it in a while, give yourself a little treat and enjoy! TTFN!
Also available on Blu-ray for the first time today, Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo!