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Silly Old Bear
on 2 November 2005
Before his death, Walt Disney had started his staff on a series of shorts starring A. A. Milne's creation Winnie the Pooh. Because he knew American audiences weren't that familiar with the character yet, he decides that a series of short features would be best, followed by a movie combining them together. This is that movie. Originally released in 1977, it combines the three shorts that had been previously released, "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree," "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day," and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too" with a couple new transitions to make the stories flow together.
The story is set in the Hundred Acre Wood where Winnie the Pooh, a bear with very little brain, lives along with his friends. There's Christopher Robin, a young boy, wise Owl, gloomy Eeyore, Rabbit, small and easily frightened Piglet, Kanga and her son Roo, and bouncy Tigger. No matter what they face, they face it together, at least in the end.
The first set of stories revolves around Pooh's love of honey. When he runs out, he tries to get some from bees and then visits Rabbit where he gets stuck after eating too much.
A natural disaster visits the Hundred Acre woods when a blustery day is followed by a flood. While facing danger, Pooh also learns about Heffalumps and Woozles who may be after his honey.
Finally, Tigger's bouncing gets the best of Rabbit and he tries to debounce Tigger. Undeterred, Tigger gets himself and Roo stuck in a tree.
These cartoons are sweet and innocent. They easily bring back memories of childhood and simpler times. There is gentle humor and the simple lessons aren't done in a heavy-handed manner.
The style of the animation is fairly unique in the Disney canon. It's pencil line heavy. Even though the artists have made it their own, it still reminds the view of Ernest Shepherds charming "decorations" from the books.
These stories are very true to their source material. The new character Gopher is introduced, but as he's not in the book, he's not even in the second half. Probably the most curious choice was the use of a book. The pages turn as the story progresses and we move in on page illustrations to see what happens next. I'll admit it took me quite some time to get used to the idea, but I do see the charm in it now.
The main audience for this movie has always been kids, and the 25th anniversary release reflects that. Most of the features are kid friendly, with games, a sing along song, and a story time segment. Adults will enjoy the behind the scenes featurette. You can choose to watch the movie with pop up facts running. Most of them are ordinary, but there are a few fun trivia items included. Also included is the short "A Day for Eeyore." It was originally released in 1981 and features a few new voices because of cast deaths. It's a fun feature with a couple of my favorite stories from the books, but is a little disconcerting to watch right after seeing the film. As to the film itself, the picture is sharp and the sound is great. It's presented in full frame. I have no proof, but I suspect that was the original aspect ration.
This is a nice film for young kids. Adults may not enjoy it as much as some kid's films, but if they watch with an open mind, it will release their inner child.