The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 14 min.

Release Date: March 11th, 1977 MPAA Rating: G

Director: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman Actors: Sebastian Cabot, Sterling Holloway, Paul Winchell, John Fiedler, Hal Smith

 


 

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ntroducing the world to the lovable, honey-eating, unflappable stuffed animal (or, rather, collecting together the best animated representations of the critter), “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” helps to cement the yellow bear (and author A.A. Milne’s heartwarming tales) into American culture. Already popular in Britain, Disney decided in 1961 to bring the classic tales to the United States, so that the cuddly characters of Rabbit, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, and, of course, Pooh (all taking names from the London Zoo and designs from childhood toys), had an opportunity to find fans. This theatrical release is actually a compilation of three of Disney’s short films from the ‘60s and ‘70s, with additional footage edited in to create something of an overarching theme and a feature running time.

In the Hundred Acre Wood where Christopher Robin plays, lives his best friend and favorite stuffed animal, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Sterling Holloway). In his ventures to acquire that which Pooh Bears crave most – honey – Winnie the Pooh encounters all sorts of other friendly toys that inhabit the Enchanted Forest, from the bouncy troublemaker Tigger (Paul Winchell) to the always sullen Eeyore (Ralph Wright) to the small but big-hearted Piglet (John Fiedler) – as well as a gopher, who is not from Milne’s source material. Narrated like a storybook, the first chapter introduces viewers to the rather absent-minded bear and his creatively catastrophic attempt at fooling honey bees by disguising himself as a rain cloud. Having little luck, he then invites himself over to Rabbit’s house, where he proceeds to consume such a large quantity of the sweetly sticky substance that he becomes stuck in the small front door. Much to Rabbit’s dismay, Pooh must wait several days before he gets thin enough to budge.

In the second tale, entitled “The Blustery Day,” Owl’s home is knocked over by ferocious winds and Piglet is almost blown away. That night, Pooh is introduced to the fun-loving, elastic Tigger, and upon his departure, a fantastic dream sequence about mystical creatures called Heffalumps and Woozles transitions to a heavy downpour that floods Piglet’s house, forcing him to send out an SOS in a bottle. The final chapter finds Rabbit at wit’s end with Tigger’s uncontrollable bounciness – and so he hatches a plan to lose the wily cat in the forest to teach him a lesson. Rabbit’s scheming backfires, however, as he himself gets lost in the foggy woods, only to be rescued by Tigger. To bring closure to the ensemble, Pooh’s escapades draw to an emotional end when Christopher Robin must go away to school.

Though formerly three separate shorts, the clever restructuring and editing never allows it to feel like unrelated material stitched together. The most innovative storytelling technique is the narrator (Sebastian Cabot), who not only provides introductions and segues, but also furthers the story along by giving advice and offering help to characters in need (breaking the fourth wall despite never making an actual appearance). Gorgeous visuals give life to Milne’s creations while also retaining some of the simplistic styles of the original book illustrations. And lively songs and tunes from the Sherman Brothers keep the pace fast and the mood light, while even an “Alice In Wonderland” type of dream sequence finds a home amidst the colorful misadventures. The individual pictures as well as the congruous composite are masterpieces of family-friendly morals, adorably cute designs, and frolicsome humor. Like a fluffy, roly-poly, marigold Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh and friends never grow old – and neither do their delightful, slapstick exploits.

– Joel Massie

  • 9/10