A Delightful Trip to the 100 Acre Wood
Originally Released: 1977
Every once in a while, a film comes along that as I watch I just can’t help but smile the whole way through. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of these films (two more are My Neighbor Totoro and The Artist, in case you were wondering). Although it is primarily aimed at children, the characters, friendships, music, and humor all combine to create a fantastic escape to an innocent, uplifting world in the 100 Acre Wood that even adults can appreciate.
The history behind the development of this film is actually quite interesting. Winnie the Pooh first appeared in children’s stories by English author A.A. Milne, and the stories were hugely popular in Great Britain. They were also popular among Walt Disney’s children, and he worked to get the rights for the stories to create a film based on the books. He succeeded in obtaining the rights in 1961, and shortly thereafter proceeded to work on the movie.
Walt originally wanted to create a full length feature film, but he saw that at the time Winnie the Pooh was not nearly as popular in America as it was in Europe. So in his wisdom, he decided to break the film into three separate featurettes and slowly introduce Pooh and his world into mainstream America, one piece at a time. Later, he would combine the three featurettes into a single full-length film as originally envisioned.
The first featurette to be completed was Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, and it was released in 1966. Walt was directly involved in the production of the first short film and also of its follow up, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Unfortunately, Walt died before this second segment was released to the public and therefore did not see Pooh Bear’s rise to stardom as he predicted. But The Blustery Day went on to win an Oscar for Best Cartoon Short Subject in 1968, and Pooh and his friends did indeed gain popularity.
In 1974, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! was the third segment to be released, and this short was also nominated for an Oscar. With the three planned shorts finished, the animators completed the project by tying together each featurrette and including a proper ending segment for the full-length release in 1977. The collection of shorts was given the title of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
So what is it about this movie that makes me smile? It is hard to pin down the exact source, but I know part of it lies in the collection of characters. There is such a variety of personalities on display here, and each character plays extremely well off of the others. Pooh is brought to full life with silly and witty humor courtesy of Disney veteran Sterling Holloway (who I believe turned in his best work in this film). Rabbit is annoyed by basically everybody, yet he doesn’t realize that he himself can also be annoying. Then there is cheerful and brilliantly voiced Tigger, poor depressed Eeyore, and timid P-P-Piglet, to mention a few more. While each is vastly different, they are all still friends and all are valued. This friendship is something we can definitely learn from in real life.
I also love the storybook idea used throughout the film. You can actually read along to some parts of the story as the narrator speaks. Pooh has conversations with the narrator about what will happen next in the story. Pooh jumps from page to page in the animated storybook, while Tigger almost bounces out of the book completely. And rain floods the words on one page and causes them to fall down to the bottom of the book. It it all quite clever and adds to the delightful atmosphere.
Finally, I really enjoy the sense of humor in the film, including the wordplay in both the dialogue and the music. It just makes me laugh. Things like “tut-tut, looks like rain,” Pooh spitting the bees out of his mouth, Rabbit trying to decorate Pooh in his house, and the nonsensical lyrics in true Sherman brothers style all contribute to the happy tone of the film.
As popular as Winnie the Pooh is among the preschool age group, it seems like the film shouldn’t be nearly this enjoyable to adults. But that is part of the Disney magic. It manages to make something that appeals to the smallest of children also be worthwhile and uplifting to adults. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is filled with this Disney magic from beginning to end.