Friday, April 5, 2013

The Best Adaptations of Winnie the Pooh

Anybody who knows well (or even not that well) knows that I am a huge fan of all things Winnie the Pooh.  I always have been.  The stories are just so simple and innocent and full of wit and heart that I cannot get enough of the characters.  Here are the best adaptations of the bear with very little brain:

10. The Tigger Movie (2000)
The best of the Pooh movies produced by Walt Disney Television Animation.  The Tigger Movie, while not a great feature, strikes the right balance of being simple enough without feeling insignificant.  Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin takes Pooh too seriously, while Piglet's Big Movie and Pooh's Heffalump Movie don't have the stories to justify their feature length.  But The Tigger Movie's heart is in the right place and it wears it on its sleeve.  It is honest and admirable.

9. Book of Pooh (2001)
Pooh and the gang are created using bunraku style puppets and the Hundred Acre Wood is composed of cut outs.  The look of the series is very impressive as it looks like puppets inhabiting a picture book.  None of the stories or songs are very memorable, but the characterizations are pretty accurate.  The highlight is definitely the unique visuals and impressive technical aspects.

8. Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore (1983)
Disney completely outsourced this so the animation is not the best, but the character designs are solid enough to hold up.  Definitely a drop in quality from the previous Pooh shorts, but I grew up with this and have fond memories of it.  Pooh Sticks is a fun game (one that my dad, sister and I used to play on a local bridge a lot) and Eeyore's cake looks very appetizing.  It is memorable and pleasant.

7. Welcome to Pooh Corner (1983)
I am sure that people who didn't grow up with this will not like it as much.  It has certainly aged and I have read that many have found the animatronic faces to look creepy.  But I have really fond memories of watching reruns of this in the early nineties.  It is a solid educational series and has a lot of heart.  The songs (which are actually written by the Sherman Brothers) are fun and Laurie Main makes a great narrator.

I remember specifically one episode where Rabbit is angry about all of the weeds in his garden and Pooh suggests that he gives the weeds their own patch so they don't feel left out.  Impractical idea?  Yeah.  Sound logic for Winnie the Pooh?  Absolutely.

6. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Dark Ride (1999)
Even though this replaced legendary Disney attractions Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disney World and Country Bear Playhouse at Disneyland this is still a fun ride.  By 1999 Pooh was such a huge part of Disney that they earned a placed in the theme parks.  I went on this ride last year and it was just great seeing my favorite characters up close.

5. Vinni Pukh (1969)
There were three Soviet shorts based on Milne's work from 1969-1972.  They feature original designs of the characters and stay true to the source material.  They are very pleasant and stand on their own against Disney's shorts which were released during the same time.  The song that Pooh and Piglet sing have become a meme stateside.

4. New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1988)
This is my favorite TV series of all time.  I watched it a lot growing up and still do online sometimes when I am in a bad mood.  This series features designs that are friendly for television animation and has a great voice cast.  This show's version of the characters lasted throughout specials and movies until My Friends Tigger & Pooh in 2007.  This series was a big hit for Disney and they aired it frequently on Saturday mornings until 2002 and on their cable outlets, in addition to releasing several episodes on video and DVD.

This is as American as Pooh should get.  The series could be absurd and referential but also scary and emotional with a lot of fantasy.  Each of the characters got their moment to shine (Gopher in particular fit in with the Milne characters naturally and was used frequently).  The series was not influential or risk-taking, but it just has enjoyable adventures with beloved characters.

3. Shirley Temple Show (1960)
The children's anthology series, The Shirley Temple Show, featured adaptations of many children's stories.  One episode adapted Milne's stories but instead of having the Pooh characters in costumes they were done by marionettes by legendary Bil Baird.  Being that Pooh and friends are stuffed animals it is always fun to see them as puppets.  The puppeteering is excellent in this fun episode.

2. Winnie the Pooh (2011)
I keep recommending this movie to people and will mention it on this blog any chance that I get.  I saw it in theatres, but nobody else did which is a shame.  This is the best animation the franchise has ever had with the world's best traditional character animators involved (Andreas Deja may be the best thing to happen to Tigger).  The movie does not try to reinvent the wheel but it does not just rehash it either.  It has new gags that are true the characters and their universe.  The songs are great, laughs are plenty, even the end credits are creative.  It feels so simple, but it is bursting with energy and creativity.  Please watch this movie, it is perfect.

1. Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
The 2011 Winnie the Pooh may be better as a feature, but Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too are just so iconic.  These cartoons get every right.  The Sherman Brothers songs, the animation friendly redesigns and the amazing voice cast.  Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as a feature or as individual short subjects still hold up and remain some of the best cartoons to ever come out of Disney.

No comments:

Post a Comment