20 Weeks of Disney Animation: ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, released in 1977, was the first time that this beloved story would hit the big screen in its first feature. However, almost the entire film had already been released over the course of three short films released in 1966, 1968, and 1974, respectively. Though this film was released more than ten years after Walt Disney’s death, he had a great hand in making the transition of Winnie the Pooh from the page to the screen.
Walt himself worked hard on obtaining the rights to A.A. Milne’s beloved stories. One of the inspirations for a few of Walt’s properties stemmed from the stories he and wife Lillian would read to their daughters before bed. According to Disney archivist Dave Smith, Walt watched his children enjoying such stories as Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins, and this inspired him to create some of the films that we know and love today.
After Walt obtained the rights to Winnie the Pooh in 1961, he put several of his best people to work on the project. Woolie Reitherman was the director for the first short, and a couple other of Walt’s Nine Old Men worked on the project as well. The Sherman Brothers, composer of Disney classics like Mary Poppins, wrote original songs including the now famous title song Winnie the Pooh. Because the original Winnie the Pooh tales were known primarily in the UK, Walt decided to make a featurette rather than a feature so the public would become familiar with the Disney version in small amounts. The first short entitled Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was released on February 4, 1966 ahead of Disney’s live action film The Ugly Dachshund. That December, Walt passed away.
The short was a great success and led to two others soon after entitled Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! These were the three shorts that were combined to create this feature film.
The film itself is charming. Not only is it a great watch in its own right, but it is also the perfect introduction to the property that now spans numerous films, shorts, and television shows.
Live action remake: In 2018, Disney released a kind of a live-action spinoff/sequel called Christopher Robin. Reminiscent of Hook, the film follows as a grown up Christopher Robin, played by Ewan McGregor, as he rediscovers the magic of the Hundred-Acre-Wood. It is a great, heartwarming film that comes highly recommended by me.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the theme parks: One of the major rides in several of the Disney parks is also called “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”, and is a dark ride with the characters of Pooh. It is a fun ride for kids and adults, although the heffalumps and woozles aspect of the ride could potentially be scary for young children.
Sequels/Spin-offs: During the 1980’s, Disney released two Winnie the Pooh television shows. The first was called Welcome to Pooh Corner and featured a mix of real actors and puppets to tell the stories. The second was The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which was a traditionally animated show in the style of the original shorts. 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.
In 2000, the first theatrical Pooh movie since 1977 was released entitled The Tigger Movie, centering around the character of Tigger. Three years later, Piglet got his own movie as well in Piglet’s Big Movie. In 2011, the company returned to the Hundred Acre Wood yet again with Winnie the Pooh, a film which, like this one, is part of the official Disney canon of animated features.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is available to stream on Disney+.