Blu-ray Review: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

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Charmingly quaint, the 1977 animated classic The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh arrives on Blu-ray for a whole new generation of kids to enjoy. It’s hard to know if today’s youngsters, many of whom have been exposed to more hyperactive entertainment, will sit still for a film this quiet and relaxed. But the marketing juggernaut based on A.A. Milne’s characters continues to generate massive revenue, maintaining a high enough profile that the six-and-under crowd of this (and future) generations will likely continue to discover these mild adventures.

As a theatrical release in ’77, the feature-length big screen debut of Winnie-the-Pooh was a bit of a cheat. Cobbled together from three pre-existing short films—Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974)—and padded with transitional sequences, it is more unified in tone than in narrative. Some 36 years later it holds together pretty well, with its simple animation style, memorable songs, and Sebastian Cabot narration. The whole Hundred Acre Wood gang is here, with Pooh (voiced by Sterling Holloway) joined by various combinations of Tigger (Paul Winchell), Rabbit (Junius Matthews), Piglet (John Fiedler), Kanga (Barbara Luddy),and Eeyore (Ralph Wright).

Winnie the Pooh rabbits house (380x277).jpgLow-key is the operative term here and should’ve maybe preceded the word “adventures” in the title. Pooh eats too much honey while visiting Rabbit and subsequently gets stuck when trying to exit the habitat. In the second segment, a heavy rain floods the Wood, leaving poor Piglet in need of assistance. Lastly, everyone is annoyed by Tigger’s constant bouncing, leading to a temporary hiatus on that particular form of physical expression. The plots are thin but songs like “Rumbly in My Tumbly,” “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,” and “Heffalumps and Woozles” help enliven things.

Oddly, Disney’s Blu-ray reframes The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh from 1.37:1 to 1.66:1. I’m surprised it was ever full-frame to begin with (that’s how IMDb lists it), but it has apparently been cropped here for a widescreen effect. The image has been buffed ultra-clean. Just a quick look at the 1983 short included as a bonus feature, A Day for Eeyore, offers an idea of just how tidied up the image is. The later theatrical short is unrestored; grainy and speckled with print flaws. To my eyes, the main feature looks excellent, with rich colors and generally sharp imagery.

I’ve seen serious complaints from purists who feel the original look has been destroyed. I can understand this to a point, but since I hadn’t seen this film in years the lack of film grain and reframing didn’t faze me. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix seems far less controversial, though it of course broadens the simpler original mix. The songs benefit quite a bit, expanding to the rear channels. Otherwise the rears are not terribly well utilized (not that the film demands it). Fidelity is consistently excellent and generally as low-key as the movie itself.

Winnie the Pooh tigger (380x214).jpgThe aforementioned A Day for Eeyore short (25 minutes) is the main supplement. Also carried over from previous DVD editions are “The Story Behind the Masterpiece” making-of featurette and a sincerely lousy video of Carly Simon singing the main theme. New to the Blu-ray edition is “Pooh Play-Along,” an activity-oriented short that doubles as the “intermission” when the main feature is paused. There’s also a series of five short “Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” which are mostly Piglet-based and not especially interesting.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is highly recommended for anyone with very young children or a serious case of nostalgia. It’s wholesome, heartfelt entertainment, if slightly on the bland side. The Blu-ray package includes a standard DVD, a digital copy (incompatible with iTunes, which might be a deal breaker for some), and a miniature kite (no kidding, an actual kite is enclosed inside the case).

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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