Supposedly, as a very small child, I believed that the tree in the backyard was where Pooh lived and searched for honey. Eeyore was my sister’s favorite and now she has a collection of his stuffed likeness. And my brother was nothing short of a modern Christopher Robin, with his own stuffed animal friends. There is something pure and timeless about A.A. Milne’s stories of the Hundred-Acre Wood. They are simple, sweet and feel plucked right out of a child’s playtime.
When Walt Disney and his team first set out to create an animated version of A.A. Milne’s tales, it was not with an animated feature in mind. Instead, three shorts were created: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). Later, more story and transitional material was created to combine the shorts together into one continuous film. The end product is a seamless and beautiful work of animation.
Disney has done many episodes with Pooh and his pals, but these earliest ones have always been my favorite (along with A Day For Eeyore). They keep the characters in their purest form and in their natural Hundred-Acre Woods. In the 90s, I recall an animated series for television and a few VHS videos on our shelf. One where Piglet is a wild west sheriff particularly plagues my mind. While I’m sure those were all made with the best of intentions, besides commercialism, they’re nothing compared to the raw beauty of Disney’s earliest works with the Pooh.
The voice acting throughout The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is flawless and brings perfect life to each of the characters. Sterling Holloway gives Pooh such a gentle and sincere voice that has become iconic, never truly matched by any other actor. Paul Winchell’s Tigger is whimsically bouncy and many of his most memorable lines were ad-libbed. John Feider’s Piglet is perfectly meek and sympathetic. For each short, a different young actor provided the voice for Christopher Robin, but in the complete film, Timothy Turner dubbed all the lines, as to not jump from one voice to the next. And Sebastian Cabot’s voice is unforgettable in his final role as The Narrator.
One thing I always found very interesting about all the early Pooh cartoons was how naturally the fourth wall was broken. Pooh and his friends not only interact with The Narrator, but also the pages and text within the book that we are looking into. For me as a child, this gave me a whole new dimension within the picture books I would read. If Walt Disney could imagine the illustrations moving and jumping around the page and discussing what would happen next, why couldn’t I?
These days, parents can find their children many versions and films featuring Winnie the Pooh, but only a few hold real beauty. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh feels like such a simple and sweet labor of love, like an old fashioned hand made blanket to wrap a child with. It’s a soft and sincere bit of fun animation that won’t over excite children and draws them in naturally. I highly recommend this film to all parents with young kids. They need to see Pooh and his friends before they grow out of their own stuffed toys.
“I’m a little black rain cloud of course.”