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The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh(1977)
A collection of animated shorts based on the stories and characters by A. A. Milne.
For more about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray release, see the The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 25, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sterling Holloway, John Fiedler, Junius Matthews, Paul Winchell, Ralph Wright, Hal Smith
Narrator: Sebastian Cabot
Directors: John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman
» See full cast & crew
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray Review
"Pooh, for a bear of very little brain, you sure are a smart one."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 25, 2013
While filmmaker Walt Disney will forever be remembered for his successes, his failures numbered even higher. His greatest contribution to film, in fact, was his ability to pick himself up and push on; to find another story to tell whenever a passion project didn't come together; or to keep Walt Disney Productions and its famed animation studio afloat when financial ruin was a hair's breadth away. With an eye for talent and a finger on the pulse of audiences, he slowly but surely built a magic kingdom of classic animated films in the shadow of those that almost were, those that didn't pan out, and the hundreds of ideas that never made it from his boundless imagination to the silver screen.
One of those unattained projects was a Winnie the Pooh feature film. Disney acquired the rights to author A. A. Milne's "Winnie-the-Pooh" books and characters in 1961, with the intent of seeing the Hundred Acre Wood fully realized in theaters. The closest he came, though, was Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, a 26-minute animated featurette attached to the long-since forgotten The Ugly Dachshund in February of 1966. Walt Disney would succumb to lung cancer later that same year, a Winnie the Pooh feature just one of the many, many would-be classics the legendary filmmaker would never see come to fruition.
And yet, eleven years later, it turned out Walt Disney would have a hand in a Winnie the Pooh film. Rather than telling a new story or spinning a fresh tale, Wolfgang Reitherman's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh gathered three previously released theatrical featurettes together under one roof: Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974), Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968) and, yes, Disney's own Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966). With a storybook and narrator as its framing devices, the 22nd Walt Disney Animated Classic became one of the studio's most beloved and treasured films; its minimalism and simplicity endearing, its characters unassuming and utterly lovable, and its place in the Disney canon validated by each new generation of young moviegoer.
The problems are few, if any, and only trace back to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh being a compilation film. In moving from featurette to featurette, the animation takes time to come into its own, the character designs change over the years, Tigger is absent from the Honey Tree sequences, and the parade of distinctly different Christopher Robin voice actors can be quite jarring. Thankfully, it's easy enough to shrug off each setback, and basic knowledge of the production addresses most every concern. If anything, Adventures provides the rare opportunity to trace the path of a classic series' evolution -- from its early experimental genesis to the discovery of its now familiar rhythms -- and to deliver on both its promises and potential.
There's also something to be said for the film's innocence and restraint, which makes modern animated movies feel busier and more erratic than they already are. At first glance, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh seems like a film geared toward pre-school and early elementary school children. And while it is in part, its ease and effortlessness, its dulcet tones and sooting voices, sing-song music score and quaint sound design are refreshing. In a noisy, hyperactive animated landscape, the Hundred Acre Wood is a welcome oasis; one I've never grown tired of visiting and revisiting, no matter how much gray slithers into my hair, or how old Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree or The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh may be.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray, Video Quality
I realize most members simply don't have the time or interest to thoroughly read lengthy video reviews. I tend to skim myself. But a simple "it looks good" won't do here, as a more in-depth discussion is called for. I hope you'll consider my full analysis and then take to the forum to discuss the presentation further. If you're pressed for time (or interest), skip down to the last two paragraphs of this section for a more concise video review. Thank you.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh strolls onto Blu-ray with yet another divisive 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer of yet another digitally restored and remastered Disney animated catalog classic. And this one might be a bit more controversial than others. The first issue? Noise reduction. Before anyone panics, though, know that Adventures isn't another Sword in the Stone disaster. Not even remotely close. Grain has been completely and thoroughly eradicated, and along with it some minute (many will argue negligible) details, but none of it amounts to anything I'd consider a serious loss.
The ill effects are most apparent in the live-action opening credits sequence. Note the "frozen" grain field suspended over the image as the camera pans across the toys; almost as if a frosted glass filter has been placed in front of the lens. Note the textures in the room, or rather the lack thereof, and the malleable, mashed potato appearance of the objects. Now take note of the same opening footage in high definition, minus Adventure's digital restoration (and aspect ratio), in A Day for Eeyore, the theatrically released Pooh short film found among the disc's special features. The original credits photography is still unmistakably soft, but it's primarily a filmic softness. Note the grain, the uptick in fine detail, the more natural film-like appearance. No, it's not "pretty." Edge halos and artificial sharpening haunt both HD openings (as well as that of the previously released DVD version of the film), and the grain in A Day for Eeyore is unwieldy and uneven, not to mention peppered with nicks and small scratches.
However, from this we can deduce two things. First, while The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh features a new digital restoration and remaster, the master utilized to create that restoration and remaster is probably not a brand new scan of the original elements, which would have been ideal. Second, the noise reduction as implemented -- specifically as applied to this film and this master -- is responsible for removing more than just grain and scratches. And it continues taking a small toll throughout the film, even though that toll is minor and any negative effects aren't as readily apparent.
As the live-action opening shifts into the animated pages of the storybook, another troubling issue presents itself: the art is hindered by slightly aggressive brightness and contrast tweaking. The image isn't necessarily more vibrant either. Many of the delicate watercolored background hues -- the greens, browns and yellows -- are a tad bleached and whitened; to the point that they sometimes appear faded or weak. The foreground palette is seemingly lovelier and more generous, particularly as it applies to Pooh and his friends, but it's actually the entire image that's a bit washed out, which robs the colors of some of their original richness. Not that many viewers will realize anything is amiss. Most will be more than happy to sit back and soak in the many improvements the newest release does offer. (Don't worry, I'm getting to those in a moment. Promise.)
The noise reduction/brightness duo have a (generally slight) effect on everything from the storybook letters in wide shots to the finest strokes of the animators' line art and the more passive colors of the background painters' original work. The result is a presentation more concerned with making the film look as new and eye-catching as possible, rather than as true to itself as possible. To be clear, I'm not rallying for a dim, damaged presentation that shows its age and disregards the advances in film preservation and restoration. I'll be the first to say the intention of the Disney remaster is noble: rejuvenate a 36-year old animated classic to the delight of a whole new generation. The execution, though, is flawed. Perhaps even disrespectful, although that's a debate best hosted in the forum. Might I suggest the Disney Classics Screenshot Comparisons thread. While there, you can also engage in a discussion about the presentation's 1.66:1 aspect ratio, a point of contention that's another matter entirely.
Fortunately, there's plenty of cause for enjoyment and celebration as well, and, flaws notwithstanding, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has never looked better than it does here. It's important to understand what's been lost, yes, but it's crucial to recognize what's been gained. Despite the mild whitening effect I described earlier, Christopher Robin yellows and blues, Pooh Bear reds and honey-golds, Tigger oranges, Piglet pinks and other foreground colors have been granted new life. Saturation is pleasant too (without being overbearing), black levels are satisfying, and the animators' pen strokes are sharp and distinct, with their scratchier, scruffier traits intact. Several textures survive the noise reduction as well, most notably the book-page texture of the backgrounds in later segments. At the source level, there's also a marked improvement in the animation as the years (retroactively) roll on; the sequences from Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (circa 1966) aren't as striking as those from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968)... which aren't nearly as striking as the crème de la crème, from Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974). All the while, the finer qualities of the presentation and encode remain consistent. Without any macroblocking, banding, aliasing or noise to point to, the end result is as pristine and technically proficient as anyone could hope for.
I won't scold those who come to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and walk away completely satisfied. If I didn't know the presentation could be better, I'd feel the same unbridled excitement. I'd marvel at the crispness and clarity of the image; applaud the relative cleanliness of the art, or the manner in which the imperfections in the animation and line art have been preserved; bid farewell to every print bump and bruise, and embrace the newer, shinier Adventures with a warm hug. Frankly, I wouldn't miss the grain at all... if I knew everything else was in order. But all is not well, and this is not the definitive version of the film fans of all stripes deserve. The trick, then, is determining how dramatically the good outweighs the bad. Were this a live-action film, the noise reduction would be disastrous. As is, with Pooh's minimalistic style and animation, the effects aren't nearly as damaging, offensive or taxing. I've been bouncing back and forth between a 3 and a 4 for the better part of the day. Casual viewers will award it a 4, perhaps even a 4.5, while purists and those who treasure the full integrity of the original animation will drift toward a 3. I've settled on a 3.5, although I'll budge if additional information I've overlooked comes to light.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Breathe deeply. We've made it through the video portion of the review. Luckily, evaluating Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is much, much simpler. Voices are perfectly clean and clear, with minimal hiss, few signs of debilitating age, and nothing in the way of a distracting noise floor. LFE output is commendable but reserved on the whole, and the rear speakers offer little more that light forest ambience and a fuller soundfield when it comes to the film's music. Otherwise, this is a 5.1 remix done right; with a sense of respect and faithfulness to Adventures' original sound design. There are some inconsistencies from sequence to sequence, of course. The film is, after all, comprised of various short films that were produced and released years apart. But none of it proves problematic and nothing struck me as out of sorts. All told, it's a pleasant lossless track and nothing more, just as it should be.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The wonderful thing about The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is that it offers so many wonderful things, even some thirty-six years after its original release. Brimming with warmth, heart, humor, simplicity and innocence, the Hundred Acre Wood and its denizens are endearing to the point of being disarming, and Disney's 22nd animated classic is very much a classic in every sense of the word. The studio's Blu-ray release, though, doesn't quite offer the classic AV presentation fans were hoping for. Its sometimes pleasing, sometimes problematic remaster and transfer look good -- casual viewers will wonder why the presentation is so divisive -- but it isn't the definitive restoration and presentation the film deserves. Even so, Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a solid one, and its supplemental package features a nice selection of must-see content, including A Day for Eeyore in HD. Ultimately, there's no reason to avoid the Blu-ray release of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, shortcomings or no. This is still the best the film has ever looked or sounded, and we aren't likely to see another shot at restoring the film until its 40th Anniversary, in 2017. So enjoy the BD for what it offers now while waiting patiently for Disney to revisit Pooh's first feature film again in the future.
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