Ranking the Disney Canon – 33: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

“Christopher Robin, can you make a one-hero party into a two-hero party?” – Winnie the Pooh

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the Unofficial Package Film. It is the only package style film to not have a release in the 1940s. The film was released in 1977, during another period of time where the financial fortunes of the Disney Studio were not the best it could be. Winnie the Pooh is unique in that, unlike any of the package films before it or anything that would come after it, it is actually composed of the three previously released Winnie the Pooh shorts from the decade before the film’s release. All of the other package films, and all the other Disney films, for that matter, feature at least 95% original content.

The three Winnie the Pooh shorts in the film are presented in order of their original release. Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, released in 1966, tells the story of Pooh’s exploits to achieve honey, including disguising himself as a rain cloud, and paying a visit to Rabbit. Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day, released in 1968, introduces us to Tigger, shows us Pooh’s haunting dream about Heffalumps and Woozles, and has our characters deal with a flood creating Rainstorm. The final short, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, was originally released in 1974, and gives us both Rabbit’s attempts to humble Tigger, and the adventures of Tigger and little Roo.

STRENGTHS

The Winnie the Pooh shorts are regarded as classics in the minds of many, and well, they are classics. Though I’m not going to call them the best shorts Disney ever made, because they are not, each segment does have at least one or two memorable moments that define the Winnie the Pooh. There is a reason that Winnie the Pooh keeps coming back, including the new film coming out very soon.

One of the reason that these characters keep coming back is because they are extremely classic characters. Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl, and the gang are a fun group that are unique in that they can each play off the other in a completely different way. The Tigger-Pooh dynamic is very different from the Tigger-Rabbit dynamic, which is very different from the Tigger-Roo relationship. This is proof that the characters have unique qualities, interesting personalities, and quirks that you care about. The characters also work extremely well for the shorts style, yet can be expanded for feature-length work. A very versatile group indeed.

I’ve always thought that Tigger was the best character to come out of the Winnie the Pooh franchise, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh does nothing to disprove my belief. Tigger is an extremely fun character with a catchy song, memorable catchphrases, and a defining personality. His scenes are some of the best the shorts have to offer. You can’t help but to smile whenever Tigger is on-screen.

I give the film credit for a having good content, but most of the best content comes from the middle segment, Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day. The only Pooh short to win the Oscar, Blustery Day is chock full of wonderful moments. The scene between Tigger and Pooh, The Heffalumps and Woozles dream, Owl’s speech to a floating Piglet and Pooh, and Eyeore’s journey to find Owl a home all combine for a highly memorable segment.

Within the 5 minutes of original material, the film does include a heartwarming scene between Christopher Robin and Pooh at the end, dealing with Christopher Robin going away to school. It gives me chills, and just leaves me begging for more new Pooh Material within the film.

Finally, the Winnie the Pooh shorts feature some of the premier Sherman Brothers tunes, even if the songs are a little on the short side. Many of the best songs come from Blustery Day, including “Heffalumps and Woozles” and “The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down, ” but the other segments have classics too.

Also thanks to reader Andrew for reminding me that this is our third Sterling Holloway appearance. It was really silly for me to forget this since this is arguably Sterling Holloway’s biggest role yet! I guess Winnie the Pooh is so distinct to me that I completely forgot!  Sterling Holloway Count: 3

(An extra note: One of my favorite parts of Pooh is the references to the fact that they are in a book, and that they have a narrator. I love fourth wall breaking humor.)

WEAKNESSES

I debated for a long time where this film would be placed on the list, whether or not I would place it closer to the top 25 or lower it closer to the bottom ten. The reason I debate this film’s placement more than any other film? It’s hard for me to rank this film high when only 5 minutes of material was create specifically for the film. When putting into consideration the films we still need to talk about, all of which are 100% full of original content (the lone exception being Fantasia 2000), I just can’t say this film is above any of those when the three shorts were released years apart, rather than being created specifically for the film.

My issue with the content isn’t just a ranking fairness dilemma. I feel that, because the films were released in different years, there is a small difference in tone, style, and character between the shorts. This is because, with the shorts comings years apart instead of being a part of the same film, the characters are able to evolve in the minds of the creators, and through different creative teams. The character of Winnie the Pooh changed a bit between 1966 and 1968. The bee tricking, honey mooching Pooh in Honey Tree differs from the protective, friendship loving Pooh from Blustery Day, the definitive and modern day Pooh. The evolution of the Pooh character gives the audience a weird vibe when the two shorts are next to each other.

There is also the fact that the creative teams changed slightly throughout the release of the shorts. The first two were at least begun under the watchful eye of Walt, but Tigger Too was not. The first two were made within two years of each other. Tigger Too was made 6 years after the Blustery Day. Instead of having one, consistent vision for the characters, the three films have slight differences between each other because many different hands played with the product. This may not be as noticeable when seen individually, but when placed one right after the other, the differences create a jarring feeling.

That may be the main issue I have with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The segments of the film were created as a series of short films. They weren’t meant to be put together in a feature-length film. The fact that Piglet and Tigger don’t appear until Blustery Day seems OK when seen as part of a series, but it comes off as odd when the films are seen as part of a whole. Apart, the shorts are seen as individual stories, but together, the shorts lack a flow and real connection between them. The films are much better when seen as individual short stories.

BEST MOMENT AND SONG

Out of all three segments, the best sequence to me is the introduction to Tigger. It has great character moments for both Tigger and Pooh, and features many good moments as they interact.

The best song follows in that Disney tradition of crazy dream sequence animation. Heffalumps and Woozles is one of my favorite Sherman Brothers songs. Before, though, is a bonus scene with a great Winnie the Pooh moment.

CLOSING COMMENTS

Again, just because I’m ranking The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at 33 doesn’t mean that I don’t like the film. The film has many great moments and characters, and remains a staple of the Disney output today. I’m extremely glad Winnie the Pooh is a franchise that Disney doesn’t allow to disappear (except when it replaces Mr. Toad and The Country Bears at Disney Parks, but that’s another story.) The segments are wonderful, but as individual segments. Weaknesses are created when these films are put together one right after the other. Plus, it doesn’t help that this film contains very little original content. I’m very surprised The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh got this low on my list, but it’s where it is.

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3 thoughts on “Ranking the Disney Canon – 33: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

  1. Of all the Disney Franchises I have ever grown up with, the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ franchise always finds a place within my heart. As a person who holds a copy of the ‘Complete Tales’ edition of Winnie the Pooh from many years ago to even a copy of the ‘Many Adventures’ film on VHS, the stories really come alive thanks to the memorable characters, each with their own personalities. While the films in general are best left as individual segments, what I love about the films is how they are almost close with their interpretation from the material they were based off. All that began from a series of bedtime stories that A.A. Milne would tell to his son, the boy that would inspire one of the franchise’s biggest icons, Christopher Robin. Thanks to the book and the segments that would make this movie, it would inspire a number of television series/specials, several books for children, a long awaited sequel based on the novel, and all leading up to the most recent film release ‘Winnie the Pooh’.

    And as a side note, to all those that are just getting introduced to the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ material, I do leave this bit of advice should anyone take the time to read it. Before you take a view of this movie for the first time, before seeing any of the television shows (Whether it’s Welcome to Pooh Corner, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, The Book of Pooh, or My Friends Tigger & Pooh) or way before you get a copy of the ‘Winnie the Pooh’ sequel on Blu-ray or what-not, I highly recommend reading the stories that made all this media possible. For without the book that featured all the individual stories together, many that would be featured in this movie and the sequel, the franchise itself would not have been possible. And I truly believe that if there is any credit that’s due it’s not just to Disney in general, but also to the late A.A. Milne, who brought his characters to life. This film may not be one of the best Disney films in history, but for any who loves stories that bring out our inner child it accomplished enough with the franchise that continues to grow to this very day.

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