It's like warm apple cider for the soul...

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 6.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 5.5

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 9.5

Art Direction/Design: 7

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 10

From RM:

I gotta get up. I gotta get going, I'm going to see a friend of mine. He's round and he's fuzzy, I love him because he's just...

Pooh Bear! Winnie the Pooh Bear!
Lookin' for fun, chasin some hunny bees
Pooh Bear I know he's out there
Rumble-y tumble-y, climbin' a hunny tree

I'll spare you the rest. So, Winnie The Pooh. This particular theatrical release was cobbled together from three previously released featurettes, Winnie The Pooh and The Honey Tree (1966), Winnie The Pooh & The Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie The Pooh and Tigger Too! (1974), so technically, this is a package film. But, it holds itself to a far higher standard, and came out thirty years later, so we're going to ignore that fact.

The film is a collection of stories about our titular Pooh Bear, from his first encounters with his addiction, Hunny, his hilarious attempts to scam bees out of said Hunny by disguising himself as a little black raincloud, to the time when he ated to much Hunny, which got him stuck in Rabbit's front door. This pretty much wraps up the first of the three acts. The second one includes Blustery Days, introduces us to rapid stalwarts of the story Tigger and Piglet. First, the massive storm happens, wherein blusters occur, Owl's house is ruined, Tigger arrives and explains the subtleties of hephalumps and woozles to a confused Pooh, rain comes and provides a disturbing level of water damage to everyone's homes, Pooh accidentally resuces Piglet, Piglet gives his home to Owl, and moves in with Pooh, despite the relative brevity of their relationship.

The final short deals with Rabbits frustration over Tigger, and his harebrained schemes to get Tigger to stop bouncing. He finally succeeds in this, after a failed attempt to get Tigger lost, wherein he himself is lost, until finally Tigger, in a fit of Hubris, bouncs too high, and is scared to come down. Rabbit makes him forswear bouncing and this makes Tigger sad, but then Rabbit lets him bounce, and all are happy. Then, there is a heartbreaking scene where Christopher Robin, the boy amongst stuffed dolls, tells Pooh that he as to start growing up, and Pooh says he'll always be there for him. Then it pulls back to a live-action Nursery, where live-action Pooh Bear winks, much to your horror. End.

This film is unique, even among Disney films, for its ability to make me feel like I'm watching it all over again for the first time. The second Sebastian Cabot begins explaining the Mr. Sanders sign above Pooh's house, I'm five again, my mother is making me french toast, I'm in pajamas with feet, and all is well with the world. No matter how old I get, the first time I see Pooh try to think, or hear Tigger explain the intricate, most likely foreign spelling of his name (T-i-double guh-err), something inside me melts, and everything is full of... whatever I was full of at age five.

The art is unexceptional, but good by the relatively low standards of the 60s/70s, and the framing device of the book is used to great effectiveness in both the art and plot. What defines this film though are clearly the characters. Frankly, I could care less about inclement weather or bees, because Pooh Bear is adorable doing anything. He is all that is light in this world. And while perhaps some of his songs aren't as memporable, and his stakes aren't as high, he's still among the finest creations, and finest re-definitions of a character, that Disney ever created.

From Wiry:

Oh, bother. Tut tut, it looks like rain. Oh, stuff and fluff. Think, think. You never can tell with bees. Silly old bear.

You can't deny the Pooh charm. I remember my sister had a Pooh whose nose wiggled when you squeezed his hand. You could totally hear the mechanized rotating what-dilly at work, but it was still just the most precious thing. What's confounding about Pooh is his amazing ability to be so cute without ever crossing into annoying. Like so many animals that populate works designed for children, Pooh is very child-like, but he's also something of a little old man (thanks Sterling). Pooh may be gluttonous and a bit simple, but thankfully he's never going to try to teach you how to count or speak Spanish. Those are both valuable lessons, don't get me wrong, but Pooh somehow manages to create a richly populated world where adventures are had without the risk of anything truly horrible happening and lessons are imparted without them ever feeling heavy-handed. Though it's not a problem in this film, I found the limitations of the Hundred-Acre Wood to be grating in later installments. More so than anything else Disney, nothing truly bad happens in this world, so it's hard for there to be things like character growth or intricate plotlines. But, that's not really the point.

No, the point is the charm. But more than that. RM and I chatted about that particular feeling watching this gives us. For RM, it's a maple flashback full of warm fuzzies. But, for me Pooh will always be autumnal. And I don't just mean in the blustery-day, muted color style way, I mean that feeling of melancholy as it starts to get colder and dark. The series has always hinged on that tension between Christopher Robin growing up versus remaining in the Wood. And, while Christopher Robin is hardly the most interesting character (what with being a stand-in for us), there's the worry that, when he goes away, the Hundred-Acre Wood ceases to exist. There's more ambivalence toward growing up here than one finds in Peter Pan - for Peter, his opposition to adulthood is unequivocal and bratty, and (I think at least) the world he offers is more deeply flawed than the Hundred-Acre Wood. Yet, even though the Wood is something of a paradise, none of the animals pull a Pan and kick/scream as Christopher announces he won't be coming around so much anymore.

But, while you can return to the Wood (unlike Neverland), I do think it's never quite the same. I watch Winnie the Pooh and most of all I'm filled with sadness that I no longer think all my stuffed animals come alive when I'm not around. Pooh inspires a longing in me for more magical times, that sort of magic that's really the charm of Disney, isn't it? For all the cynicism, and the slapping of these films on the slab to dissect, the wonder never dissipates. And yes, we all must grow up, but I think that's all the more reason you have to have those Hundred-Acre Woods to come home to stay sane. Maybe it's a little Don Quixote of me, but I think that's so.

Final Grade: B+

1.) Fantasia
2.) The Lion King

3.) Sleeping Beauty
4.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
5.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
6.) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
7.) Peter Pan
8.) Cinderella
9.) The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad
10.) Lady and The Tramp
11.) The Great Mouse Detective
12.) Pinocchio
13.) The Jungle Book
14.) The Black Cauldron
15.) Mulan
16.) The Three Caballeros
17.) Treasure Planet
18.) Saludos Amigos
19.) Fun and Fancy Free

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