This is the eighth addition in an ongoing series that will form a comprehensive review of the ‘official’ Walt Disney Animation Studio’s canon – from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through 2016’s Moana and beyond.
For reference, here is a complete list of the films in the Disney canon.
- Film: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Year: 1977
- Director(s): John Lounsbery and Wolfgang Reitherman
- Length: 74 Minutes
- Source Material: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner (British Storybooks 1926-28) by A.A. Milne
- Official Budget: N/A
- Official Box Office: N/A
Originally distributed to theaters as a ‘double feature’ paired with The Littlest Horse Thieves, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of Disney’s most recognizable properties, and has generated a slew of sequels, television series, merchandise, and park rides.
Not a true feature, this is a collection of three previously released shorts produced by Disney: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). After generating some filler material to link the featurettes together, a finale based on the final chapter of The House at Pooh Corner was produced to wrap up this theatrical release.
Worth noting, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the final Disney canon production where Walt Disney had direct involvement. Although Disney died in 1966, two of the three featurettes had either been completed or mid-production by the time of his passing.
Looking at Disney films holistically, the target age for their films fall somewhere in the range of ~7-13 years old, with enough colorful animation to capture the attention of younger viewers, and maybe enough depth to keep parents and other adults engaged for 90 minutes. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh doesn’t target this traditional broad Disney viewership. Taking aside the fact that The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has more in common with the package film era releases than a traditional feature film, the featurettes that make up this production have infantile plots that only the youngest of audience members (ages ~2-6) could appreciate.
The storylines are amateur, underdeveloped, and often lack any facade of actual plot; instead taking up much of the 74 minutes with frivolous drivel. While every Disney has a bit of silly nonsense, excluding an evident plot entirely ostracizes all but a narrow range of viewers.
The titular ‘Winnie’ is an endlessly frustrating character; unceasingly dopey. Similar to criticism of the plot; some silliness is a good time, but Winnie’s never-ending doltishness is tiresome for even the most patient viewers. While Winnie and the rest of the characters from ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ will have a special place in most viewers’ memories, this nostalgic sentiment might need to be tested with a contemporary viewing. Tigger, Roo, Eeyore, and the like are one-dimensional and absent the depth expected from even the most shallow Disney films.
Rabbit, voiced by Junius Matthew, is the lone bright spot as the ever-neurotic neighbor of Winnie. All Rabbit wants to do is to tend to his garden and be left alone; and his run-ins with the irritating ‘Pooh Bear’ will have viewers sympathizing with his manic-induced hysteria.
The foundation of the character designs can be attributed to author A.A. Milne’s original illustrator, E.H. Shepard. Working with Milne, and using the stuffed toys the characters are based on, Shepard created the iconic looks of Winnie, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Owl, and the rest. Disney animators cannot solely claim kudos for the iconic look that is so closely associated with this material; and is so firmly etched in our minds.
What Disney animators did with Shepard’s work was neither failure nor improvement. Instead, the animation in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is acceptable, and nothing more. Inclusion of transition scenes where pages from Milne’s storybooks with his characters climbing over the letters was imaginative, but was built upon more creatively in the 2011 sequel.
Following a common theme in this review, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh‘s soundtrack has some iconic additions to Disney’s pantheon, but is it fully deserved? There are catchy sing-alongs, especially for younger viewers to enjoy, but nothing here with the substance of ‘A Whole New World’ or ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’. ‘The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers’ is probably the best of the mix; and once you get it stuck in your head, good luck getting it out!
With sophomoric storylines and hollow characters, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is going to be a favorite with only very young Disney viewers. For the rest of us, don’t test your nostalgic memories unless you want to risk being disappointed.