Original Release: March 1977
Runtime: 74 Minutes
Directed By: Wolfgang Reitherman and John Lounsbery
Notable Actors: Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler and Bruce Reitherman
Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin plays, you’ll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days. Growing up, Winnie the Pooh was a big part of our household. My Mom loved Tigger. I recall her wearing Tigger socks and having Tigger scrubs. (She was a nurse.) I loved Eeyore as I found him to be adorable in his pessimistic view of the world and my Grandma loved Piglet. When I brought the film up to my Mother, recalling these days of yesteryear, she exclaimed that she found Piglet to be “super scary.” To each his own I guess. The point I’m trying to make is that Winnie the Pooh might just be the film on our list that is the most ingrained into my mind so far. We never owned the VHS as I recall. I used to watch the film over and over on a tape that my Mom had recorded the film on during that one month that we actually had the Disney Channel. Cable was not something that was a big part of my childhood. It was special. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is unlike any other film in the series. It promotes friendship, imagination and an undercurrent of philosophy telling us to not overthink obstacles and to always stay present, while enjoying the simple things in life.
Based on the book “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was originally released as three separate shorts: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! It was only due to the success of theses shorts that it was decided that a feature film with all of them would be released in 1977. Director Wolfgang Reitherman’s son Bruce would take on the role of Christopher Robin while our frequent voice casting visitor Sterling Holloway would finally be in the leading role as Winnie the Pooh. The film also featured whimsical songs by the now famous Sherman Brothers, of Mary Poppins and Jungle Book fame.
There’s not a whole lot of history to spout about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It’s a straight forward project that was well received and has nothing even the least bit controversial that I could find. That being said, why don’t we learn some fun things about Winnie the Pooh as a whole.
The original Christopher Robin met Winnie, or Winnipeg, the bear at the London Zoological Gardens. She was a black bear that Christopher loved so much, he named his own teddy bear after her. Christopher Robin’s father, A. A. Milne wrote stories and poems of his son and his favorite stuffed animals which would eventually become the collected stories of Winnie-the-Pooh. Since then, the success of Winnie and friends has been absolute. Winnie’s Latin translation version was the only book in Latin to ever hit the New York Times Best Seller’s list. And finally, my favorite little morsel of Pooh history, and there is plenty, is that Christopher Robin Milne grew up to also be a writer and in doing so denounced his father, who he felt left him with empty fame which had not been earned. I’m sure he also left you with some killer inheritance so take it down a notch, eh?
The visual style of the film is one that I find so captivating as a writer especially. Several films before it have shown us a book of the story we are about to see but this film literally lives within its own pages. We see the book come to life and it is a very real part of the story as pages flip and lines of text are drowned out by the rain. At one point, the book is turned sideways in order to get Tigger off a tree that he has bounced himself into. The book, as well as our narrator, feel as alive as the stuffed characters on the screen. It’s so entrancing to see letters fly by Pooh or hear Pooh talk to the narrator about what will be in the next chapter. Never before have we had breakage of the fourth wall in such a fun and interesting way.
Winnie the Pooh is a delightful character to watch on screen. He thinks and sees the world in a wholly original way. He is concerned mainly about where he will find food at and goes to great lengths to get it. He also takes plenty of time to think out a problem, being that he is a bear of very few brains. Given that he does this, he often comes up with what seem like ludicrous solutions to a problem. For example, he decides that in order to get honey from bees, he must disguise himself as a rain cloud, because bees would never suspect a rain cloud. When the bees don’t buy it, he thinks that the best way to make the costume more convincing is to have Christopher Robin pull out an umbrella and proclaim “Tut tut, it looks like rain.”
In one of my favorite lines of the movie, Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit are all lost in the woods and Pooh notices that they have passed by a large hole several times. To Rabbit, he suggests that since they keep looking for home and only finding the hole, perhaps they should search for the hole, and then they might find home.
There’s a reason Winnie the Pooh is studied when it comes to ancient Chinese philosophy. There’s a simplicity and a presence that comes with his characters and the way that he evaluates the world. Bees only exist to make honey, and honey only exists to be eaten by Pooh bear. “I’m asking myself that very question,” Pooh says. “And what do you think you will answer yourself?” Asks Piglet. Being that this is a film about a stuffed bear, the dialog begs to be swirled around in one’s mind the way that cognac is swirled in a glass.
The other thing I love about Winnie the Pooh is the pure unadulterated level of friendship and the positivity that comes with that. “If you live to be a hundred,” says Pooh, “I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.” And one of my favorites, “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the the time.” That’s what’s so special about Winnie the Pooh. Even as I write his words down, I feel a warmth inside, and how many characters can truly make us feel something like that.
Yet, there are other fantastic characters here too. Piglet shows us just how worrying can affect our lives, but even so, he is still a hero in his own right. He literally gives up his home to Owl just because he doesn’t want Owl to have to be homeless. In doing this good deed, he is rewarded by Pooh who allows Piglet to live with him. Piglet is a great symbol that even those who are meek, can still have a strong heart.
Eeyore is my favorite. He is so glum and dreary, but even so, he is a good friend. He searches even amidst the flooding and the storm for a house for owl. Eeyore is sort of the anti-Pooh. He’s always down in the dumps but there’s also a level of acceptance here and I like the way he questions things. “Happy Windsday,” says Pooh. “If it’s happy at all,” says Eeyore. He doesn’t take things at face value and I like that. He also accepts that things aren’t always perfect, knowing that yes, his tail will most likely fall off again. That’s just life. You fall, you get back up, you fall again, you keep going.
If there’s a villain here, and there really isn’t, but if there is, it’s Rabbit. He’s sort of a grumpy old man who is put off by everyone and is pretty negative to all. His plan to lose Tigger in the woods and then find him so that he is grateful is pretty harsh, compared to a film filled with love and friendship. However, Rabbit is still quick to offer food and care for anyone who provides him company in his home.
The real life of the party is Tigger who is an overactive, over confident tiger, ready to jump his way to greatness and fun and is always proud to be one of a kind. He proves to be a bit excessive to his friends though as he is often overly excited and knocks them over when he “bounces” them. Tigger is good proof that there can be too much of a good thing, but I think his confidence and self love is something we could all use a bit of from time to time. I often think, as I’m sure many of us do before trying something for the first time, that I will be bad at it. Tigger is the opposite. He assumes he will be amazing at everything he does. He assumes that every food he eats is his favorite. He looks at the world in an openly optimistic way and we can easily think of him as the anti-Eeyore. Like him or hate him, Tigger commands your attention when he is on the screen.
The only two characters who are less than impressive in the film are Owl and Gopher. Owl doesn’t bring much to the story besides being old and smart and having stories to tell, and Gopher is only really good for a joke, “I’m not in the book.” Their still fun characters to be sure, but just don’t bring the dynamic qualities of everyone else. Even Kanga and Roo provide some nice family feels throughout the film. Kanga is always loving and kind and Roo is an adorable little guy who just wants to grow up to be like Tigger. After all, he really is the coolest animal in these woods.
I think it’s interesting that Christopher Robin isn’t really a big part of the story. He is more of an observer, watching the crazy antics of these characters and sometimes adding a bit of input. He is a like their father figure, giving them gentle guidance but letting them find their own way. It’s interesting as he is the only non-imaginary character in the film, but it’s also comforting that if things ever get too bad for these critters they can always call on Christopher.
I was surprised, and a little sad, to not see one of the classic stories I remember from Winnie the Pooh that I had been sure was in the film, Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore, in which Eeyore and friends play Pooh Sticks. It’s always been one of my favorite shorts as I love Eeyore but it wasn’t here and left me feeling a bit sad in the end, when Christopher goes off to college. I later found out that this short came out after the release of the feature length The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
I could go on and on about how much I loved this movie. From the bad spelling on everything to the smacking sound Pooh’s lips make as he eats honey to the deeply moving philosophy behind so much of the dialogue but we’re running a bit long here, so I will simply say that Winnie the Pooh is utterly brilliant and has every right to be one of the Disney’s most profitable properties. The film takes a new take on visual style by implementing the movement of a book as the setting and is beautiful in its simplicity. It stresses friendship, determination, optimism and caring and what more could you ask for in a movie made primarily for kids who are often so receptive to these lessons. As our Narrator says, “Sorry, Pooh, but all stories have an ending, you know.” And as Pooh so eloquently puts it, “Oh, bother.”
Next Up: The Rescuers
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NOTE: Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own. That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.
ALSO: My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney. Head over HERE and check it out!