Disney by the Numbers: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

One Man, One Woman, Eight Decades of Disney Animated Features watched in order, and the overly complex system they invented to grade them. These are our thoughts, rants, and observations.

This is Disney By The Numbers.

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For  over  90 years, across 200+ movies, Disney has accrued a roster of nearly a 1000 characters. And while everyone has their favorites, some have risen above the rest to form something of the upper echelon (look at me using $3 words) of Disney Characters.

These aren’t merely popular, these are characters that have stood out to the point where their mere image doesn’t simply represent their respective films, they serve as mascots of the entire Disney company and are almost a brand unto themselves.

Obviously Mickey and friends are up there, as are Jiminy Cricket, Mary Poppins and Tinkerbell.

peterpantinkangry
It would be a bit dangerous not to include her.

The thing they all have in common is that they’re all Walt Era characters. They’re characters whose films all benefited from having Walt Disney’s personal touch (and in some cases, wholecloth creation). Among Walt’s many talent’s was an innate ability to identify and amplify the characteristics that made characters memorable and lovable.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t post-Walt characters that manage this trick. Genie and to a certain extent, Lumiere manage this. Woody and to a lesser extent Buzz Lightyear are icons, as are (like it or not) Elsa and Anna.

But these characters hail from either the Disney Renaissance or Revival when Disney had found its groove again.

All of this is to say that it’s a little bit odd that there’s really only one Disney Super Star that doesn’t come from one of these time periods and not only is basically a brand unto himself, but in many ways inhabits his own hallowed ground among Disney characters even among their top tier. That character is, of course,

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Yes, yes Pooh Bear, I was just getting to that part.

Storytelling

  • Theme 2
  • Tightness of Script 3
  • Dialogue 3
  • Use of Comedy 3
  • Use of Drama 1.5

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is an anthology film, unconnected shorts held together with a loose framing device. We’ve seen this many times in Disney history. Your Fun and Fancy Frees, your Fantasias, your… Three Caballeros

threecaballeroswtf3
*shivers in PTSD

 

Typically these types of films don’t score well, particularly in the storytelling category. You can’t really judge a film on its plot when there are three of them.

That said, Winnie the Pooh actually pulls off its anthology rather well, largely due to its framing gimmick. While we’re viewing separate, mostly unconnected shorts, it’s all done under the idea that we’re reading a book of short stories of Winnie the Pooh. This in and of itself isn’t groundbreaking, but the little touches of a  lively narrator who interacts with the characters is.

Then there’s this stuff…

winniethepoohletters1

 

or this

winniethepoohletters

 

With the characters themselves interacting with the words and  pages they’re in, the framing device isn’t just there to connect the shorts, it becomes part of the story and truly makes it feel like it all fits together.

Furthermore, the themes of the shorts all coalesce together to paint a beautiful portrait of childhood wonder and friendship in a way that no other anthology does. When you add the witty dialogue, the genuine comedy, and the smatterings of drama, you have a recipe for pretty much the first anthology film to not tank in the storytelling category.

 

Total: 12.5

Music

  • Lyrics 4
  • Score 5
  • Number of Songs 2
  • Notoriety of Songs 4

shermanbrothers

The Sherman Brothers did the music. I mean I could pretty much leave it at that.

Not only are these guys responsible for some of the best loved Disney songs, they pretty much defined the sound of Disney during the late Silver Age and most of the Bronze. And this film is no exception.

Whether you’re listening to the melodic ‘Little Black Rain Cloud’, the bouncy ‘Wonderful Thing About Tiggers’ …

winniethepoohheffalumps2
…Or what in the Pink Elephants this fever dream is…

… you’re pretty much guaranteed to be listening to an instant classic.

And… well, we’ll get into ‘Heffalumps And Woozles’ a bit more in the next section but since it is a clear and present homage to ‘Pink Elephants On Parade’, it feels like it’s worth noting that, musically, ‘Heffalumps And Woozles’ is the better piece.

dumbopinkelephants7
Not that it isn’t a classic!

And whether or not one of these songs is better than the other, there’s no denying that neither song stands up to this last one which is not just the best song of the film, but one of the best in the entire Disney Canon.

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Admit it, you can hear this gif.

It’s  hummable, it’s memorable, it’s endearing, and it perfectly encapsulates the spirit and tone of this film.

But then again, what would you expect from the guys that freaking wrote the soundtrack to Mary Poppins?

Total: 15

Animation

  • Quality of Animation 2
  • Use Of Color 3
  • House Style 3
  • Character Design 3
  • Breaks New Ground 2

I haven’t made it a secret that I don’t love the animation of this era. Starting with 101 Dalmatians, there’s no way to not notice the sharp decline in quality. I was all but pulling my punches when talking about The Aristocats, and even though I love Robin Hood, I had to call it out on its overuse of recycled animation. So is Winnie the Pooh the exception?

100% it is.

Because it’s not that the scratchy style of this era is bad. It’s just a bit inadequate for your typical Disney film. But in Winnie the Pooh… where the concept is that we’re seeing illustrations in a child’s story book come to life… it works.

winniethepoohrain
Pictured: The Animation working

 

Then there’s the character designs themselves. This is an interesting case where many of the characters don’t really match the traditional Disney House style. Disney characters are typically known for their large expressive eyes, yet Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and a few other characters merely have little black dots for their eyes.

winniethepoohreal
Hint: It’s mostly the ones that are real life stuffed animals.

In spite of our core characters not entirely looking like classic Disney characters, their designs are just perfect. They’re pretty much the epitome of cute and appealing and perfectly capture what their character is supposed to be about. Pooh’s perfectly rotund to play off his clumsiness, Tigger is lanky yet perfectly springy.

Then there’s the entire ‘Heffalumps And Woozles’ section. Disney films from this era rarely got to cut loose. They were just scratchy adventures that don’t really match up to the ones from the past.

But here in Winnie the Pooh, the animators actually got to stretch a bit. The ‘Heffalumps And Woozles’ section bounces and stretches with surreal splendor. ‘Pink Elephants On Parade’ still exceeds it by really playing with color and design more, but this song and animation sequence is a worthy successor of Disney’s grand old tradition of screwing with kid’s heads for no other reason besides they could.

Normally I wouldn’t apply the word “perfect” to any Disney films animation that isn’t from the Disney Golden Age or the Renaissance… but the animation in Winnie the Pooh is pretty much perfect.

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Yes, yes, you’re very good Pooh Bear.

 

Total: 13

Love Story

  • Character Interaction 1.5
  • Importance To Overall Plot 1
  • Complexity 1
  • Pulls At Heartstrings 2
  • Overcomes Obstacles 1

Not going to lie. This was a hard one.

bother
Don’t worry, Pooh, we’ll figure it out.

Ordinarily,  it’s pretty easy to pick out the love story in a Disney film. It’s usually the two characters that have the closest relationship, be that romantic, filial, or platonic.

But Winnie the Pooh’s nature as something of an anthology means that the relationship focus gets fairly spread out. In some episodes, it focuses on Pooh’s friendship with Piglet, while others more heavily feature Tigger and Roo’s common love of bouncing.

So it’s hard to pin this one down.

But eventually we settled on one particular character, that reoccurs and has a strong relationship with all the characters. And it is, of course…

winniethepooh4thwall
Pooh! No! We already did that joke!

It’s Christopher Robin!

While Christopher doesn’t get nearly as much screentime as the other characters, all of them depend on him and love him. His final moments with Pooh, talking about going to school are both sad and heartwarming. It epitomizes that childlike love that The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh is all about.

Total: 6.5

Hero

  • Sidekick 2
  • Charm 2
  • Goodness 2
  • Emotional Transformation 0.5
  • Comedy 2

This category, however, was not hard.

His name is in the title. And his name is the title of the sequel movie that came out decades later.

Some Disney characters get by on their versatility. Mickey can be put in any story and adapt to it, from high adventure, to drama, to comedy. Tinkerbell’s personality also varies in each appearance, from the silent psycho of the Peter Pan film, to the plucky adventurer of the Tinkerbell films. Even Jiminy Cricket went from a moral stick-in-the-mud, in Pinocchio to a out on the town gadfly in Fun And Fancy Free.

But Winnie the Pooh? He’s always just Winnie the Pooh.

Like these other characters, he’s shown up in multiple films, but unlike them, he’s always just his silly old bear self. Pooh is sweet, caring, and funny.  He’s also a bit of a glutton, not the brightest, and short-sighted… but most importantly, he has the childlike simplicity to make all of his faults not only forgivable, but also charming.

Pretty much the only “flaw” as far as we’re concerned is that Pooh doesn’t have any sort of emotional transformation. Though we couldn’t dock him fully, because we don’t really expect or want Pooh to be any different.

Although it would be interesting to see him as an action hero.

winniethepoohaction

 

Total: 8.5

Villain

  • Evilness 0
  • Comedy 0
  • Sophistication 0
  • Henchmen 0
  • Poses A Threat 0.5

Well, ya can’t win them all.

Sure, we’ve looked at other Disney films that didn’t really have a villain, but The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh really doesn’t have a villain. An actual bad guy would not only take away from the childlike innocence of Pooh, it actually runs counter to the very idea.

The closest there really is to a villain here in this film are the heffalumps and woozles. And while they’re mildly threatening to Pooh… they don’t really tick off any quality we look for in a Disney villain.

So while this may cost Pooh some points in the overall judging, he more than makes up for it in the others.

Total 0.5

Supporting Characters

  • Comedy 2.5
  • Inventiveness 2.5
  • Clear Help Or Hindrance 2.5
  • Strength of Relationship with Main Character 2.5

It’s pretty common for Disney supporting characters to shine.

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh is no exception. But to speak of the strength of these characters, one only has to look at Pooh‘s spin offs. Because while Jiminy Cricket and Genie might be noteworthy characters, none of them ever got their own features.

 

And yet here’s the Hundred Acre Wood’s crew getting two entire spin-offs all to themselves.

While Pooh himself is enough to hold down a movie, the entire world he inhabits and all of his friends more than earn their status as some of the best supporting characters in any Disney movie to date.

Total 10

Disney Magic and Legacy

  • Theme Park Presence 1
  • Timelessness 2
  • Impact On Culture 2
  • Scope of Audience 2
  • Disney Feels (Or Did It Make us Cry?) 3

Strap yourself in folks this is a biggun.

While some Disney films have a big legacy, few of them have enough to fill a Hundred Acre Woods. Probably like few other Disney films, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh has nearly become a franchise in and of itself.

I’ve already mentioned two spin off movies and alluded to the official sequel… that’s just scratching the surface. You can also see more evidence of Pooh’s success in one of the gifs used in this review from the Saturday Morning cartoon Pooh held down in the 90’s; one of many. There were also a slue of direct to video films and even video games based on this silly old bear. And then we get into Pooh’s live action endeavors.

Yes, Pooh had been in live action more than once.

The one most would be familiar with was the Christopher Robin movie Disney produced not long ago. It didn’t do amazing, which is a shame in a lot of ways because it had some interesting stuff…

winniethepoohhellothere
Weird movie.

But probably Pooh’s most memorable live action appearance came in the form of his live action tv show which was released in the early 80s, with all the power and technology that a tv show with a Disney Channel budget could muster.

winniethepoohliveaction
Oh dear god Disney! Why do you do this to us when we’ve done nothing but love you!?

So maybe Pooh’s forays into live action have been bumpy. But who cares, he’s an icon and a bona fide star in his own right. How many real people made a successful transition into cartoons? Almost none. So take that.

On top of all this media, there’s also the Winnie the Pooh attractions in the various Disney theme parks, the costumed characters in the parks, and the entire restaurant dedicated to Winnie the Pooh meet and greets and oof… my hand is cramping up just trying to get out all the many, many ways Winnie the Pooh has been successful over the years.

And none of this is without merit. Winnie the Pooh has been so prolific over the years because it so easily fulfills the rest of these subcategories. Winnie the Pooh is as accessible to children as it is to adults. The first Winnie the Pooh short is just as charming today as it was in 1966.  And the simple joy and wonder it brings is pure Disney Magic.

Total 10


Grand Total: 76

Most of the time, when a Disney film deviates too far from the traditional Disney Tropes, the results are, at best, mixed. Most of the time these films wind up feeling more like one of Disney’s competitors rather than one of their own productions.

But Winnie the Pooh is the exception to that rule. It’s an anthology film, it doesn’t really have a villain, the animation is technically proficient but not amazing. All of these things have doomed other films in our rating system. But Winnie the Pooh overcomes these through sheer creativity, magnificent characters, and effortless charm.

It breaks the rules, and yet still works. Disney, the company, at the time this film was released was ruled under the principal of “What would Walt have done?” This usually resulted in them playing it safe and just trying to ape previous efforts. What they forgot was that Walt thrived by breaking the rules and doing new things.

While they probably hadn’t intended to do so, the reason Winnie the Pooh worked so well was specifically because it goes its own way and stood out. If Disney could have harnessed that energy at this time, they might have bounced back really well.

But The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh was really more of a last gasp of greatness. Because after this film… Disney was going to enter a period it needed to be rescued from.

therescuerswinniethepooh


 

Need more Hundred Acre Woods in your life? Try Main Street Baker’s amazing Winnie the Pooh inspired dish!

1 Comment

  1. Great analysis and a great movie!

    I mean, it’s probably incorrect to consider Winnie the Pooh a post-Walt’s Era creation anyway because Walt Disney was still alive when the first Pooh short, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, was released before it was packaged in this film.

    Like

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