51 Days of Disney (Day 22): The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Robin Hood left a very bad taste in my mouth, so I need something to restore my faith in Disney. Luckily for me, Disney actually released two animated films in 1977, both of which are good and one that never fails to make me smile. This is very good for me, because what you couldn’t obviously see from my review yesterday is that I was literally screaming at the screen yesterday while watching some of the offending scenes in Robin Hood yesterday. I needed a Disney film that would not make me burst a blood vessel.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is actually a package film and each of the three segments were released separately as shorts before they were combined into the film. Winnie the Pooh and the Hunny Tree (1966) is about Pooh (Sterling Halloway), a bear of very little brains, trying to steal some honey from some bees, but constantly fails at it. Just about every venture he sets off upon ends up failing, even getting honey from his friend Rabbit (Junius Matthews), because hunny sounds like bunny, when he overeats and gets stuck in Rabbit’s front door and has to starve off some weight. Christopher Robin, Eeyore the heavily depressed donkey (Ralph Wright), Kanga (Barbara Luddy) and Roo (who is my personal favourite character in Winnie the Pooh besides Owl), and Owl (Hal Smith, who replaced Pinto Colvig as Goofy and eventually Sterling Halloway as Winnie the Pooh, and voiced Flintheart Glomgold and Gyro Gearloose in Duck Tales, and Phillipe in Beauty and the Beast) all help Rabbit get Pooh out of his front door

In Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), a number of extreme weather patterns hit the Hundred Acre Wood, starting with some strong winds that end up knocking over Owl’s house. Eeyore then decides that he is going to find a new house for Owl. That night, Pooh gets a visit from Tigger (Paul Winchell) who tells him about Heffalumps and Woozles and their hunny stealing antics. What follows is a “Pink Elephants on Parade” style freak-out session, and boy is it weird and a little freaky. Eventually, the Hundred Acre Wood completely floods and Pooh and Piglet are caught in the current.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) is all about Rabbit trying to “get the bounce out of Tigger” in order to keep him from constantly ruining Rabbit’s vegetable patch.

The score this time around is done by Buddy Baker  and the songs were done by the Sherman Brothers, the songs were very obviously written first and the score follows the tone of the songs very well. The score is light, happy, memorable, and fits the movie exceptionally well. It’s hard to pick out just one song that really stands out as even though you only hear each of the songs once, you will hear the score for that song in different segments of the film. Pooh’s “I’m Just a Little Black Rain Cloud” can be heard as a song in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and as a score in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, the song “The Most Wonderful Thing about Tiggers” is heard in both Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too and can be heard as score in the latter, and the song “Winnie the Pooh” can be heard as a score throughout.

The most amusing aspect about this movie, and what made all of the subsequent entries in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, is the use of the book. The three stories are, of course, based off of stories from Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne and the Disney Studios made a stylistic choice to frame all of the stories as though they are literally being read out of a book. The book is shown and the narrator and characters interact with the pages and the words in the book. For instance, when the very blustery day turns into a very rainy day, the rain water actually starts to make the words run off the page. Characters literally jump from page to page, and Tigger almost jumps clear out of the book. The inclusion of little flourishes like this makes the movie stand out a lot more and makes it significantly more memorable.

Pooh has a very large presence in the parks. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eeyore are all very common walk-around characters, and even Rabbit and Kanga and Roo have had been walk-around characters in the past. There was a problem with Pooh replacing the superior versions of attractions in the past though. At Walt Disney World, Pooh replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, which at the Magic Kingdom actually had two different tracks opposed to Disneyland’s singular track. It essentially made it two different rides. I eventually got over the loss of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Florida is a fantastic dark ride. The Imagineers even managed to incorporate the book into the attraction in a similar way as what the animators did in the film.

The Disneyland version is a completely other matter. It’s awful, simply awful. It replaced the Country Bear Jamboree, which was better at Disneyland as it had two theatres, and once again, I would have been fine with it if it was the Walt Disney World version but it isn’t. At the Magic Kingdom, the attraction is located in Fantasyland, but at Disneyland, Pooh moved into Critter Country. The Imagineers felt like they had to tweak the ride to fit into the northwestern United States setting (despite the fact that Splash Mountain takes place in the southern United States, but I’m not even going to bother with that) so the setting of the ride was changed from England to some random forest. Christopher Robin was cut from the attraction to reflect the location change and because the attraction was in Critter Country, there goes the fantastical book.

Tokyo Disneyland has a third different version of the attraction, this time called Pooh’s Hunny Hunt. This one uses a completely different ride system from the American attractions, it uses a ride system that doesn’t have a track which allows the hunny pot ride vehicles to move around show scenes without being “guided” by a track. The show scenes are also much more detailed and have better audio-animatronics.

Over all, the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a much better film than Robin Hood and even the Aristocats.

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