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Toon Talk: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh 25th Anniversary Edition
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THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH
25th Anniversary Edition DVD
The Bear Necessities
Long before there were Pooh merchandise shops on every corner of every theme park, before Interactive Pooh and Bouncing Tigger toys were demanding your kids attentions and allowances, before the endless video and television incarnations where released seemingly daily, there was the three original Winnie the Pooh animated shorts. Starting with Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) and continuing with Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974), these were the real deals. Based more directly off of the beloved source books by A.A. Milne, the shorts captured an innocence and simplicity that one could easily become endeared to, a childlike wonderment that still holds up today.
The first three theatrical shorts (a fourth, Winnie the Pooh and A Day for Eeyore, would not be released until 1983) were combined into the feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, released March 11, 1977 and considered the studios 22nd animated classic. This 25th anniversary DVD edition gathers together the best of the early material, with a minimum of representation of the subsequent diversions that followed. In other words, the DVD focuses on the best of the Disney Pooh oeuvre, leaving out all of the marketplace-clogging product that has long since diluted the uniqueness of Pooh and friends in a lot of fans' eyes.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, due to its packaging together of three pre-existing works, does come off as a bit episodic. But even within the individual shorts themselves, there were obvious beats between the stories told. This is a minor quibble, as these adventures are so enriched with subtle humor and charming characterizations, showcasing one of the best voice casts assembled for a Disney production: Sterling Holloways sweetly naïve Pooh, John Fielders insecure yet loyal Piglet, Paul Winchells boisterously oblivious Tigger, and the ever-present, ever-soothing narration of Sebastian Cabot.
A lot of the success of the early Pooh franchise is due, of course, to long-time Disney director/animator Wolfgang Reitherman. His deft handling of the material in the first two chapters perfectly sets the tone for the soft-spoken, gentle hand that these stories required. Fellow Disney animation legend John Lounsbery ably carries that through in the third chapter, although even here, in the films weakest segment, it is apparent that the original luster was beginning to fade. Like a favorite television series that starts losing its creative spark once its original creator departs, it was downhill to Frankenpooh and Detective Tigger from there.
But such profit-driven frivolity is easy to dismiss when you see again that toy-filled room with the winking teddy bear and the little storybook that opens itself as you hear deep in the 100-Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin plays