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25 Weeks of DisneyToon Sequels: Week 3

This week, we are looking at Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, the first film in the Winnie the Pooh franchise since 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. After Walt Disney bought the rights to the Winnie the Pooh series, he began development on several animated shorts, only one that was released before his death in 1966. These shorts in question were later compiled and placed in a feature film that was released in 1977. You can read more about the history of the Winnie the Pooh franchise here.

Though Winnie the Pooh stayed a large presence on television throughout the 1980s, there were no films released as part of the franchise for a long period. It wasn’t until the rise of home video and Disney’s new venture into the direct-to-video market that sparked the company to bring Winnie the Pooh into another direction. In August of 1997, Disney finally released Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin. This film, marketed as “the first all-new Winnie the Pooh movie in 20 years”, is a direct continuation of the 1977 classic. As Christopher Finch points out in his book on the history of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, this film picks up where both original author A.A. Milne and the original film left off, in which Christopher Robin goes away to school. The difference, however, is that in the original movie, Pooh and his friends seemed to understand where Christopher Robin was going and that he would be away for a while. In this movie, Christopher Robin leaves Pooh a note stuck to a jar of honey that tells him why he will be away. This note, stained with honey, is misread by Owl to say “skull” rather than school. This leads to him sending Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore on a quest to find their beloved friend.

This movie, though a little bit darker than the original shorts, is a delightful follow-up to the early Pooh stories. The departure from the usual formula allows for a different take on the material that is both welcome and refreshing. Despite this, however, we never forget that we are watching Winnie the Pooh and the characters are as strong and charming as ever. The original songs, written for the film by Michael Abbott and Sarah Weeks, are clever and pleasant to the ear. The adventure song by Owl is particularly memorable and fun to listen to as well as watch.

This direct-to-video follow-up sets a high bar for the sequels that came after, one that unfortunately is not often matched. Winnie the Pooh is a special property that Disney has done great things with throughout the years, and this film is no exception.

Check back next week for Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. Happy watching!


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