Debuting on Blu-ray, Pooh Year begins with a Christmas Eve celebration in the Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and the gang gather round the tree, excited to exchange presents. They reminisce about a much earlier Christmas in which they nearly didn’t get their list of gift requests to Santa. That’s when we segue to the ’91 special, in which Pooh intercepts the letter intended for Santa and everyone decides they need to ask for bigger, better presents. The Christopher Robin-penned original list consisted of quite modest items.
When the letter again winds up in Pooh’s hands, he ends up posing as the jolly old man himself, delivering handmade substitutions for the requested gifts. It’s a neat little story that emphasizes the spirit of giving and delivers a well-worn message regarding the value of generosity. That story ends at about the half-hour mark, at which point we return to the 2002 story that feels more slapdash overall but has the benefit of a bunch of songs that kids will likely enjoy.
The combo pack includes both the new Blu-ray and a standard DVD. A Very Merry Pooh Year is far from Disney’s most impressive high definition presentation. Especially given its decidedly second-rate, kidvid status, I think most folks would be satisfied with the standard definition version. The difference between the ’91 and ’02 footage is more pronounced on the BD, with the earlier material being far more pleasing to the eye. Tigger’s orange fur is a prime example of how much more “pop” the colors have in the older special. The ’02 one is just really blah, with a faded-looking, subdued palette. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix on the Blu-ray is lazy (why no lossless upgrade?) but again, the target audience certainly isn’t going to complain.
Surely Disney could’ve dug up something new to throw on the BD in terms of bonus features. We get the “Classic DVD” features, which amounts to a menu from which you can jump to the special’s songs (with optional lyric subtitles onscreen). There’s also something called “Enchanted Environment” (24 minutes of a very slightly animated living room with music playing). Okay, technically there is something new on the BD. “Disney Intermission” is a feature that’s triggered by pausing the movie. Some simple games come up that aren’t terribly interesting or interactive, but might hold very young viewers’ attention.
I suspect many people who want to own Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year will opt for the only slight more expensive Blu-ray version, if only to have the DVD disc as a back-up. That’s my recommendation, but I do wish Disney had fleshed out this hour-long special with a little more supplemental material.