The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Here, for once, is a Disney movie about whose source material I am intimately familiar. When I Was Very Young we had both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner on our bookshelf, and my mother used to read them to me at bedtime, along with a few other favorites like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I’m pretty sure that I could read them myself at some point, and I know I had most of the stories memorized, but I still wanted her to read them. What I remember most is the story about Pooh and Piglet building a trap for Heffalumps and baiting it with a jar of honey. Pooh obsessed about the honey all night, and finally got up and went down in the trap to eat it. He got the jar stuck on his head, and when Piglet came to check the trap he saw Pooh down there and ran away, screaming “Help, help, a Heffalump, a Horrible Heffalump! Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump! Hoff, hoff, a Hellible Horralump! Holl, holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!” And I would laugh hysterically every time my mother read that.
This is a movie for very young children. It’s actually made from four short movies, which were later stitched together into one feature. The attractions for an adult are limited. But they got a lot of things right. The look of the characters is reasonably close to the classic illustrations in the books. (The thing I like best about the Disney treatment is that transitions are accomplished by having the characters skip from page to page of an actual book, leaping over the crease in the middle. Sometimes the words wash away in water, or crumble down the page.) The best characters are Piglet and Eeyore, whose mannerisms and voices are perfect. I didn’t like Sterling Holloway as the voice of Pooh. Christopher Robin has been modernized a little. I remember thinking his clothes were odd when I was young. It almost looked like he was wearing dresses, though he had short pants under them. And boys were sometimes attired in dresses in the Victorian Age and later.
The worst characters in terms of faithfulness are Owl and Rabbit. Owl is too gay when he should be solemn, and Rabbit is too nervous. My least favorite character in all respects, in both books and film, is Tigger, who is a noisy pain in the ass, but I’m sure the Very Young love him.
The stories are handled reasonably well, though sometimes they forget about the payoff, as when Pooh and Piglet are tramping round and round a spinney of trees, possibly on the track of a Woozle, and the footprints of other creatures, one large and one small, keep joining the track until it seems they are following a whole band of Woozles. We need the scene where Christopher Robin points out that all the tracks are their own, and we don’t get it.