'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' is important. The film -- a collection of featurettes -- is a cherished production in Disney's illustrious vault, not just because it introduced the world to the animated versions of A. A. Milne's lovable characters, but also because this was one of the last productions that Walt Disney himself influenced before his untimely death in 1966.
Before his death, Disney had intended to create a full-length animated Winnie the Pooh film. However, short animated featurettes came before anything else. First, was 'Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree' (1966) – one of the last Disney projects Disney supervised. The next short 'Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day' (1968). A third short, 'Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too' (1974) followed six years later.
In 1977 these three wonderfully diverse shorts about Pooh, Christopher Robin, and the rest of the gang were compiled together. A fourth short was added to the end, 'The House at Pooh Corner,' to try and give the movie some sort of cathartic storybook ending. Bits and bobs were added in between the transitions to make the whole thing feel more like a linear story and, voila, 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' was born.
Piecing together these shorts that were each separated by a handful of years could've been disastrous. As it is the jump from one short to another is jarring in itself. The animation evolves over time. The voices change ever-so-slightly, yet noticeably. And even with the added transitions, there are times the four stories simply don't seem to mesh. The fourth installment is one that sticks out like a sore thumb. It's a little less fun and a little more cartoonish.
'Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day' has always been a favorite of mine. Coming in a close second to 'Dumbo's "Pink Elephants on Parade" for "Creepiest Dream Sequence in a Disney Film," "Heffalumps and Woozles" is a psychedelic trip; which, by the way, is carried over perfectly into the Winnie the Pooh-themed Disneyland ride.
Watching 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' offers the unique perspective of watching Disney animation evolve over nearly a decade in a little over an hour. It's one of the most underrated movies in Disney's canon, simply because of its historical significance. However, that doesn't overshadow the fact that it is, indeed, a great little film full of charm. Disney, as with most things he took a keen interest in, was able to capture the childlike aspect of A.A. Milne's stories and morph them into seemingly living, breathing characters. Characters that would go on to become world-wide icons, remembered and beloved across generations.
Here's the thing though. We can go on and on about how much 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' means to animated history. How great it is to have a compilation of shorts that comprise something that Disney himself partly influenced before his passing. That's all perfectly logical to discuss. Yet, with that said, the fact that Winnie the Pooh and his stuffed friends are as relevant with young kids today as they've ever been is reason enough to heap on the praise.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Disney has released 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' in a 2-disc set. There's a 50GB Blu-ray along with a DVD copy. There's also a code for a Digital Copy of the movie included. There's a free kite inside the 2-disc set, which performs as terribly as a free kite should. A slipcover is included. The discs have been packed in a somewhat oversized keepcase. The release is region free.
There's good and bad when discussing the digital restoration that's taken place here. 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' spans almost a decade of animation, so each short, no doubt, presented its own challenges. As the movie opens in the live-action credit scene you'll notice very visible noise reduction taking place. Frozen grain hangs over the entire picture as the camera pans and the credits roll. The live-action scenes, which only comprise a couple minutes of the whole presentation, don't look all that great. They look flat and digitally altered.
The animation has it a bit better though. Sure, eagle-eyed videophiles will be able to point out exactly the moments where the applied noise reduction seems to be taking the slightest toll on the integrity of the animation. Viewed as a film, running, and not a series of hand-picked screenshots, 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' has a refined clarity. Now, I won't go so far as to say it's a perfect remaster of the original source, because it's obvious that there's been some noticeable tweaking. Backgrounds appear a little lighter than they have before. Colors are a little less dark. Make no mistake though; this isn't the misstep that 'The Sword in the Stone' ended up being.
The film is framed at 1.66:1. For comparison, Disney's Blu-ray restoration of 'Robin Hood' offered a similar presentation.
This review sounds entirely negative and that's not really my intent. For the most part I found 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' to be a solid animated title as far as video is concerned. Some hiccups here and there, but after the opening live-action scene it gets a lot better. It's solidly in the middle of the pack as far as Disney's ever-growing Blu-ray collection goes.
There aren't nearly as many holes to poke in Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. It's always been a simple soundtrack with fluffy voices and rich songs, but here the clarity and oomph have both been boosted just enough. The rear channels are more involved than they've ever been during the musical numbers. By all accounts, this is the best 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' has sounded.
I was impressed with the 'Blustery Day' segment. Howling wind moves effortlessly through the sound stage. The rear channels provide some nice ambient sound as wind swirls around the Hundred Acre Woods. LFE is actually nicely resolute during the "Heffalumps and Woozles" number. Dialogue is clear and concise. The deep baritone of the narrator's voice (Sebastian Cabot) is nicely complimented with the high-pitched childlike voice of Christopher Robin (Bruce Reitherman, Jon Walmsley, and Timothy Turner), which changed with each featurette. The clarity of the audio presentation allows you to discern the difference in voices rather easily. It was always noticeable before, but here even more so.
I won't begrudge those who might have gripes with the way the video presentation turned out on this. There were some decisions made by Disney, when restoring this, that may irk some fans. For me, while DNR was noticeable, it's not enough to write the movie off completely. I like it too much for that. Sadly, we might always look back on it and wonder what could've been. 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' is a must own for those that collect every Disney title no matter what. For everyone else it's worth a look before committing to buy.