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DVD Review of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - 25th Anniversary Edition
Review by Shannon Muir

Overall Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Individual Ratings:
Feature: 10 out of 10
Sound: 10 out of 10
Picture: 10 out of 10
Bonus Materials: 9 out of 10
Navigation: 9 out of 10

Content Summary
- 1 disc
- Running time: Approximately 74 minutes
- G rating
- Bonus Features: "The Winnie the Pooh Theme Song" performed by Carly Simon; "Pooh's Pop-Up Fun Facts"; Winnie the Pooh Art Gallery; "The 100 Acre Wood Challenge" Game; Disney Storytime, "Pooh's Shadow"; Sing-Along Song, "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers"; "A Day for Eeyore" (classic short); "Making-of" featurette; Exclusive Sneak Preview of two Pooh Movies
- Region 1 encoding; NTSC
- THX certified

More Info From Amazon.com

Review
Twenty-five years ago, three short films (all planned out by Walt Disney, though he only lived to see the first completed) were combined into the first feature highlighting a yellow bear of very little brains but a big honest heart, Winnie the Pooh. This had been Walt's original vision in order to build up the love for Pooh amongst the children of the United States, who were not as familiar with the bear and his friends as their counterparts in Britain. The result is a cast of characters loved the world over thanks in part to the efforts of Disney.

Most people either know the film or the classic Milne stories on which it is based, or much description of the three stories would inadvertently produce too many spoilers. With the hope that this film's status as a classic speaks to its story quality, attention will be turned to the wide menu of bonus features on this anniversary DVD release.

Carly Simon's rendition of the theme is nicely performed with a well-produced accompanying video, that will also be used to promote the Disney theatrical release PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE. "The 100 Acre Wood Challenge Game" allows you to choose one of three characters, then shows you a series of scenarios where you are to select the proper answers in order to help each character reach their goal (e.g. Pooh getting honey from the top of a tree); while well produced, items always seem to generate in the same order or place, so can be memorized reasonably quickly. "Pooh's Shadow" is basically a read-along book on DVD, where the child can either choose to read it on their own or read along with the narrator. Whether the child is reading along reading on his or her own, an adult may be needed to help "turn the pages" with the remote control, as manual navigation is required.

The Winnie the Pooh Art Gallery features production art, some colored versions of the art produced for the A.A. Milne books as used for production, and photographs taken at the studio and of a Pooh-themed Disneyland attraction. As a plus, the gallery allows two modes for viewing the artwork -- the Stills Gallery (where you advance each page manually and can click on pictures to see them full-screen) or the Video Gallery where it moves through for you at a predetermined pace, with some informative accompanying narration. However, the Stills Gallery icon was hard to see at times, so it was difficult to know where I was.

"A Day for Eeyore" is listed as a classic short, yet its copyright date is 1983, so whether you define it classic is perhaps debatable; I think it earns the definition in large part to the production quality and feel. Its introduction is similar to the feature film, and the artwork very much in line with the feature (versus the later television series and films). The narrator also interacts heavily with Pooh, just as in the style of the feature. Frankly, I don't think I'd ever seen this animation before, though I know the Milne stories on which it was based, and absolutely enjoyed it.

The Sing Along bonus feature, "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers," is basically that portion of the movie where Tigger performs his famous theme, intercut with footage I suspect is from the television show; the words appear on screen early on to sing along, but disappear midway through to the end of the song, which may make it tough for young ones to sing along. It's also a sampling to promote SING ALONG WITH TIGGER available from Walt Disney Home Video.

"The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Story Behind the Masterpiece" is not so much a behind-the-scenes of production featurette, as a piece on the entire evolution of Pooh from how the books came to be, through how Disney came to share Pooh with his own daughters, to deciding to make the feature film. People interviewed for the documentary include: storyman X. Atencio, animators Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Burny Mattinson, composers Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, voice actors Paul Winchell (Tigger) and John Walmsley (Christopher Robin), and Dave Smith, Director of the Walt Disney archives. It's a well-edited piece, lengthy and detailed, which I believe is as informative to newer fans of Pooh and equally enjoyable to long-time fans. One thing it explains, that I personally never knew, is the rationale for adding Gopher -- a character not from the Milne books -- in the feature film.

The sneak peeks at upcoming (at DVD release time) are of productions PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE for theatres and WINNIE THE POOH: A VERY MERRY POOH YEAR for the home market. The Piglet-themed movie piece revolves around an interview with Carly Simon, who wrote five musical numbers for the film plus provides her rendition of the theme (as heard in the video included on this DVD) for the film, intercut with film footage. Pooh's new outing for the home market is a new full-length feature about "the value of resolution" and features a full-length trailer, and it's musical numbers appear to be traditional Christmas and New Year's songs.

"Pooh's Fun Facts" is the most deceptive bonus feature in that it sounds like it is a stand-alone feature. In actuality, it is more like a setting, which results in watching the movie while facts about Pooh and his 25-year history to appear onscreen during playback. Speaking of settings, French and Spanish Language Tracks are available on this DVD, along with English subtitles for the hearing impaired, French, and Spanish. There is also a setup to optimize for THX (the DVD is in THX-certified Dolby Digital 5.1), which you may have to run prior to watching the film. In my case, though I had audio for most things, the movie played silently until I ran the THX Optimizer.

Navigation on the disc in general is pretty straightforward; it's just a matter of following the bee. However, the staggering of some menu items sometimes makes it a little difficult to remember exactly which directional arrow to press to reach a choice. The sound and video are digitally remastered and restored to a superb quality.

Whether you want to re-experience the Disney classic for yourself, or introduce it to new generations, I fully recommend rushing to get your hands on this new edition -- not just for it's high quality version of the feature film, and the "A Day for Eeyore" short which many younger Pooh fans may not have seen, but for the added features that provide something for every age.

Summation - Pros and Cons

PROS:
- Wide variety of content-rich, well-produced bonus features, especially the "Making of" Featurette and the Sneak Previews of the upcoming Pooh projects.
- Inclusion of the "A Day for Eeyore" short.
- Excellent sound and video quality.
- Multiple dub and subtitle language tracks.

CONS:
- Occasionally awkward navigation.
- Lack of answer variety in the "100 Acre Wood Challenge Game".
- "Pooh's Fun Facts" being lumped in with the bonus features when it probably is more logical on the main menu (being neither a true stand-alone bonus feature nor a true standard setting choice).



You can order The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh by clicking here.

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