Friday, February 5, 2010

#22: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Still facing financial difficulties, the Disney studio decided to do one more package film like they did during the war, this time putting its three Winnie the Pooh shorts (made from 1966-1974) into one movie, with new material in-between to weave them together somewhat. Pooh Bear and his friends are originally credited to A.A. Miline and his stories, but they have since been hijacked by Disney, and are now just as symbolic to the brand as Mickey or Goofy. They've gone on to television, merchandising, original DVD releases, and even further movies (that were straight-to-DVD quality), but here's where it all began for that silly old bear.
As the movie begins we're literally taken into a storybook and see the illustrations come alive, which serves as a very clever and well-done framing device. Scene transitions will occur with a zoom-out to see the pages turn, and visible and accurate text will appear along with it. It gives the movie a lighter touch, although it's already pretty soft stuff as it is. Comparing these shorts to any of the old Mickey Mouses or those in the musical compilation films, these are decidedly more low-key and calming. There's a veritable innocence to the world of the Hundred Acre Wood, and to all of its residence, and it's absolutely endearing, but not in an overbearing, sickeningly sweet way, though. This movie is anything BUT overbearing.
As for the shorts, they're not interconnected in a solid story. In fact, most of the featurettes don't have much of a solid story to begin with. Not to say they're aimless; they feature the characters and their day-to-day activities. First Pooh ventures to get some honey from bees, ends up helping himself to some from Rabbit, and inevitably gets stuck trying to leave his rabbit hole. Then, during a blustery day, the characters have to escape their flooded houses. And finally, Rabbit is fed up with all of Tigger's bouncing and tries to get him to stop. Doesn't sound very riveting, but a lot of it is fun to watch. Granted the final segment is probably the weakest, and not the best to end on, but it's made up for in a new ending for the film, which is bittersweet to say the least, where Christopher Robin has to explain to Pooh that he's going to have to grow up. ...sniff.
The shorts aren't exactly frantically animated, but the simple drawings and style fit both the scheme of the original drawings from the books, and also to the tone of the shorts. The voice acting is in similar fashion, the characters are all soft, but sincere, and there's not an unlikeable one in the bunch.

Verdict? A short and sweet compilation of shorts. It was certainly a good and smart move to release the shorts theatrically, and it's a triple-feature that doesn't disappoint. Plus, it's given me a bit of hope; Disney has announced its next feature film using traditional animation will be of Winnie the Pooh, something I wasn't too thrilled about when I heard about it. But while I would like to see something a bit more original, seeing this movie has warmed me up a bit to the idea. If traditional feature animation can be helped by Pooh Bear, then I'm all for it.

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