Directed by John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 74 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Release Date: June 19, 2007
Review Date: June 14, 2007
A.A. Milne’s whimsical books about his son’s stuffed animals come to life were purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 1961, and the first animated short was released in 1966. Subsequent shorts followed in 1968 (winning an Academy Award) and 1974 (netting an Oscar nomination). In 1977, the three shorts were blended into a feature film with new bridging sequences and a coda to bring the story to a logical conclusion. The “new” feature was called The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which received its first DVD release in 2002 on its 25th anniversary. This new repackaging, subtitled “The Friendship Edition,” continues Disney’s series of DVD reissues of its classics in new editions.
Winnie the Pooh (voiced by the great Sterling Holloway), a not-so-bright bear of a gentle nature and a warm and fuzzy disposition, spends most of his days searching for honey and devouring it. He’s joined in his quests by such friends as the shy Piglet (John Fiedler), the sullen donkey Eeyore (Ralph Wright), and in the latter two shorts Tigger, the bouncy tiger (Paul Winchell). Pooh and his friends’ adventures are of the slight sort, rarely manic or very frightening, and the humor in the shorts is more genteel than raucous. The friends must deal with angry bees, blustery winds, and a fear of heights among other small conflicts.
The tone of the stories is very mild, perfect for children young enough to grasp story concepts without anything too disturbing going on that might lead to frightening bedtimes, but unlike Disney’s animated classics from Snow White onward, there is less here for older children and especially adults to enjoy other than the pleasure of seeing their small fry enchanted by these delightfully capricious characters (which they more than likely will be). Though the shorts were produced during the period when Disney was turning out more energetic animated features such as The Jungle Book and Robin Hood, the pictorial quality and the sweetly naive pitch of these featurettes is closer in spirit to The Rescuers. Additionally, the songs provided by the Oscar-winning Sherman Brothers are as delightful as ever and will do doubt continue to be sung along with for generations to come.
The original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 is adhered to faithfully in this new DVD issue. Sadly, Disney has done no digital clean-up on the feature, and there is a somewhat dated look to the entire picture along with occasional spots of dirt. The focus is sharp, and the color saturation adequate, but there is moderate grain throughout. More problematic, there is ghosting around images occasionally which causes brightness fluctuations that are sometimes very distracting. In comparison to the previously released 25th Anniversary Edition, I could discern no variations in the two transfers. It appears to be the same video master used in this new DVD transfer. The film has been divided into 21 chapters.
Though the sound mix is billed as Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound is monophonic for the most part with only the barest amount of sound coming from any of the other speakers and that during the credit sequence. LFE is generally nonexistent. The sound is clear; there’s no hiss, crackle, or distortion, but it’s a 5.1 mix in name only.
Almost all of the special features from the 2002 DVD are ported over into this new release. This includes a 20-minute “making of” featurette that details the origins of the books and Disney’s acquisition of them, the decisions to go with featurettes instead of one long feature at the beginning, and some of the voice casting in the picture. The 4:3 documentary is nicely put together and is the best special feature on the disc.
Two of the songs from the film are given special treatment on the DVD. Carly Simon sings the main theme in a 2½-minute musical style video. Tigger’s song “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” is provided sing along subtitle lyrics in a 1½ -minute showcase.
“The 100 Acre Wood Challenge Game” is a simple mixture of trivia quiz and search and find puzzles for the junior set at home.
Also intended for the smaller fry is a short storybook called “Pooh’s Shadow” which children can read aloud on their own or follow along as a narrator reads it to them.
For folks who have seen the movie countless times, there’s a switch to turn on pop-up trivia facts that play throughout the movie. Most of the information is quite interesting and worthwhile to know, but this has to be accessed from the bonus features menu rather than from the set-up menu.
Behind the scenes stills on the making of the film as well as conceptual art, film cell backgrounds, movie posters, and theme park ride pictures make up a “Winnie the Pooh Art Gallery.” This section can be flipped through manually, or you can have the DVD play it as a 9-minute streaming video with narration, a nice touch.
Two animated extras are also included. “A Day for Eeyore,” which was also included on the 2002 DVD release, finds Eeyore in a more depressed mood than usual because his birthday has been forgotten. The 25-minute short is presented in 1.33:1. The 1983 movie short has lower quality animation than that found in the main feature.
Not included before is an episode from the Disney Channel’s My Friends Tigger & Pooh program. This show uses CGI representations of the characters rather than hand animated drawings of the familiar inhabitants of 100 Acre Wood, and, of course, the voice cast is all different from the originals. Still fans of the show will enjoy seeing these two slight mystery segments from the hit show.
(Not included from the 2002 release were two sneak preview trailers for then-upcoming Pooh themed programs.)
Though the company prefers to think of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as another in the string of Disney animated masterpieces, I think it falls a little short of that title. It’s certainly a lovely, charming animated feature that the younger members of the family will undoubtedly cherish. That it has less to offer older viewers is what keeps it from achieving that pinnacle of excellence that other Disney animated films which are true masterpieces have achieved.