The Film (5/5)
A.A. Milne's classic children's literary creation Winnie the Pooh has a long history with Disney going back to 1961. It was one of Walt Disney's many ambitions to see the Pooh character brought to animated life in a Disney feature film, unfortunately, by the time Walt died in 1966 the closest Disney Animation would come would be the nearly half hour short film Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (also one of the first VHS tapes I ever owned). A full length Winnie the Pooh feature film would not come to fruition from Disney's Animation wing until 2011 exactly 50 years after the character had been purchased by the studio.
The 1970's brought 3 full length theatrical animation features by Disney The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, and The Rescuers. Also released by Disney Animation into theaters in the 70's was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, much like the wartime anthology features by Disney such as The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Fun and Fancy Free, and Saludos Amigos this would be an anthology film. The difference between those earlier films, and this one would be that this would be compromised almost entirely of earlier pre-existing material. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh would be compromised of the 1966 film Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, 1968's Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and 1974's Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. These would be edited together with wraparound segments featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet to pad it out to feature length.
Disney has been almost literally pumping out their classics on to Blu-ray the last couple of years, and a good many of my most highly anticipated (for better or worse) have been released within the last month (Robin Hood, Sword in the Stone, and now the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh). The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of Disney's most timeless endearing classics. It's animation is minimalism at it's most beautiful. Although the animation gets progressively better throughout each progressive short from character design to background animation there is certainly a consistent look between the trio and the wraparounds that makes sure that there the audience never feels startled by the change in style between.
Over the years there has been many a complaint about Disney animations adapting pre-existing material in a way that makes it more palatable to their family friendly audience. The Pooh films whether by choice, or just by the sheer straight forward simplicity, and family friendly nature of the material never seem to have issues with adaptations that strayed far from the source, and thus stayed largely true to A.A. Milne's creation.
2011's Winnie the Pooh movie proved there was a market for simple stories told with simple animation, unfortunately at the time of that films release the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was in the "Disney Vault". However, it is now available for fans of that film to go back and see the original Disney Winnie the Pooh Adaptations, and experience them possibly for the first time. Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is certainly one of the studios most memorable and timeless efforts, and it is certainly exciting to have it finally re-released on Blu-ray.
Disney Animation brings the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to Blu-ray with a 1080p AVC encoded 1:66:1 transfer. I'll start by saying the transfer for this is an improvement over the DVD release, and is a step up from the many of the Blu's released by the studio last month, but either do the nature of the film itself (multiple shorts from multiple sources) or for some other re-mastering related reasons the results are indeed again a mixed bag. This is indeed bothersome more and more to me, as I would expect Disney Animation to take much better care of their animation classics than what we've seen thus far. The positives are a nice amount of increased detail, the colors especially in the foreground and much of the characters has seen a significant boost, and black levels are very solid. The main issues as far as I can tell is that a film that should have a healthy grain structure appears to have been digital de-grained nearly entirely, some segments appear more washed out, and less detailed than others. I do wonder, however, if this is an issue with the source material they were using. Overall, the transfer is primarily pleasing to the eye, but I do wish the people in charge of the restoration took a more step by step careful approach to the material.
The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English. The track is completely suitable for the film all the voices and dialogue come through nice and clearly as does the films music and sound effects. I did not detect any issues with pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
I do appreciate that these releases have some extras, most of which been ported over from a prior release, but am I the only one who dreams of a Criterion style Disney release that takes a Disney Classic and goes into depth about the FILM for film buffs that want to have the film placed into historical context. There is some of that here with the 25 minute Story Behind the Masterpiece, but I feel there is much more to this film that could be explored. Aside from that documentary we get a series of Pooh shorts including a series of them labeled the "Mini Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" which are about 5 shorts that run less 5 minutes each. We also get the 1983 short film A Day for Eeyore all of the shorts are mastered in HD. We also get a 2 minute Pooh Play Along video that encourages children to play with Pooh. The package is wrapped up with 3 minute video of Carly Simon singing the Pooh Theme.
This compilation of 3 Winnie the Pooh shorts is one of Disney Animation's finest hours. The A/V restoration is certainly a step up from the DVD, but leaves room for improvement. The extras are slim, but I do appreciate the inclusion of the other Pooh shorts, and short documentary. The compiled feature comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, the package comes RECOMMENDED.