John Lounsbery & Wolfgang Reitherman | 71 mins | DVD | U / G
Having finished 2007 with Piglet’s Big Movie, it feels somewhat appropriate to round off 2008 (almost) with Disney’s first Winnie-the-Pooh feature.
The Many Adventures… is actually compiled from three shorts made in 1966, 1968 and 1974, with some new linking material. I don’t know if these shorts were produced with any great expense, but there’s occasional evidence of what looks like cheap animation. It’s not that it’s not smooth or fluid, but rather the attentive viewer will often spot sketch marks around some lines, or flashes of other bits not properly erased. Perhaps it was deliberate, considering the sketchy style of the backgrounds, designed to evoke the original illustrations, but I sometimes found it distracting.
This is one relatively minor flaw in an otherwise brilliant adaptation, however. The film faithfully adapts several of the original stories, acknowledging its sources by frequently showing the action as illustrations within a copy of the book. This fourth-wall-breaking move may irritate some, but personally I loved seeing Pooh and co have to leap from page to page, or tipping the book sideways to free Tigger from a tree. Such moves seem tonally in keeping with A.A. Milne’s original stories and, even though some tales are abridged and some good ones left out, that spirit is always retained.
The characterisation is also spot on, producing an array of cute and loveable creations, none more so than Pooh himself. The gopher is an unnecessary addition, though the running joke about him not being in the book is very nicely done. And one can’t fail to mention the excellent songs, now as linked to the world of Pooh as anything from the original books — especially Tigger’s little tune, surely familiar to anyone who was a child in the last 30 years.
If some later Disney ventures have lost sight of the correct spirit for Pooh’s adventures, at least this original is a great adaptation. Bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, and, above all, fun fun fun fun fun.