Based on the A.A. Milne stories about a boy named Christopher Robin and his many toy animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, this film is actually a collection of three previously short films with new footage to bridge the shorts together. So in a sense, this is a package film and the first since Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The idea of doing the shorts first was so that gradually as time when on, Uncle Walt would at least be familiar with the characters and stories before doing a feature length film, Walt's dream before he died. The first film, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, opened in 1966 with universal acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film. In 1968, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day actually won the award! By the time the third film came out, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, Pooh became a household name. So here we are in 1977, with the feature film Walt always wanted to see complete.
Let's turn to Chapter 1, in which we see Pooh go through his daily routine. Hungry for honey, Pooh finds out he's out of honey and climbs up a tree to get some more only to fall down. He then goes to his friend Christopher Robin to ask for a balloon. The reason being he plans on covering himself in mud to make himself look like a rain cloud, then he'll use the balloon to float up to the beehive. This backfires and forces Pooh to happily ask for some food through Rabbit. Rabbit offers some to be polite, but Pooh eats so much that when he tries to leave Rabbit's burrow, he gets stuck. The only solution is to wait a while until the bear gets thin. After a while, the plan works and everyone pulls Pooh out of Rabbit's home only to skyrocket to another honey tree where he happily helps himself to the sticky yellow stuff.
|The original party animals.|
|Ninja bounce: it's what Tiggers do the bestest!|
And that's the story of Pooh and his friends. I liked it fine as a kid, but looking at it again years later, it's a lot better than I remember. The Sherman Brothers songs are very catchy and clever and that sketchy style of animation has more of a home here. It's really like looking at the original Ernest Shepard illustrations. There are a lot of fourth-wall jokes that mostly involve using the book and narrator as sources of humor. It's very creative like that. There are a lot more creative scenarios of course, with the windstorm, flood, trees, and of course, the trippy heffalumps and woozles scene.
This film also has this very heavy atmosphere to it. The artists do a tremendous job on making this world that they created very likable. It's laid back and slow paced, but at the same time these characters are so interesting and nice that you really enjoy spending time with them. Hell, you don't care if much happens, you could just have a conversation with any one of them and probably walk away satisfied. The story itself is not that much of a flowing narrative. It's pretty much the life of Pooh and his friends in the course of a year (I think) and all the events that happen to them. To be honest, I really enjoy films that don't necessarily have to rely on a three-act structure. It's a film where characters are allowed to breathe and be themselves.
Speaking of characters, they're so famous that I don't even have to introduce them. I love them all, but I think the two that stand out the most to me are Tigger and Pooh himself. I mentioned Tigger in another post, but I'd like to discuss Pooh. It's really hard to not like him. I know people that despise Mickey Mouse, but I've never heard anyone say they hate Winnie the Pooh. I think I know why: he's naive but pleasant. He's optimistic but makes mistakes. He's polite and nice, but is oblivious to everyone elses' concerns. I think that makes him far more interesting as a character than someone like Mickey.
|Especially the Russian version!|