Winnie the Pooh, star of an Oscar-winning series of Walt Disney short cartoons, came out of hibernation in 1997 with his first feature vehicle, done for the domestic straight-to-video market.
In the archetypically pastoral Hundred Acre Wood, a boy named Christopher Robin (voice of Brady Bluhm) regularly visits his best friend and playmate, the gentle, "hunny"-loving bear named Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings). One day, however, after the boy speaks sadly about "saying goodbye," Pooh finds
a note left by Christopher Robin on his doorstep, and eventually takes it to his learned friend, Owl (voice of Andre Stojka). The know-it-all bird misinterprets the honey-smeared message as a call for help stating that Christopher Robin has been taken to a horrible place pronounced "Skull." Owl
rallies a search party made up of Pooh and other Hundred Acre Wood dwellers Piglet (voice of John Fiedler), Tigger (voice of Paul Winchell), Rabbit (voice of Ken Sansom) and Eeyore (voice of Peter Cullen). Owl himself opts out of what he promises will be a dangerous expedition as he supplies the
would-be rescuers with a map to "Skull." The torturous route takes them into a primordial landscape, and Piglet especially fears his traditional boogeymen, the heffalumps and woozles, not to mention a new terror, the fancied "Skullasaurus." The searchers literally frighten themselves with their
own shadows as they cross vast canyons, raging rivers and nightmare forests. Yet even after losing the map, they maintain the determination to arrive at "Skull," a huge crystal cave. There, Pooh indeed finds Christopher Robin, perfectly safe. The boy had left the note explaining he'd be at a new
place called "school." "Skull" is seen to be simply an odd-shaped heap of stones. Other scary landmarks of the journey, no longer magnified by fear, recur as ordinary creeks and thickets, as Christopher Robin leads his friends back to their homes.
It's an index of Disney's success with A.A. Milne's storybooks that Winnie the Pooh's cartoon popularity rests on a mere four short subjects, premiered irregularly on television since 1966 (and packaged into a 1977 theatrical omnibus THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH). In fact, POOH'S GRAND
ADVENTURE could have done better as a short itself; even at 75 minutes, the slight story material seems overly padded. Generally, Disney writers have avoided tampering with essential settings and characters, and the most jarring moments here are those hinting at an outside universe, from Owl in an
Uncle Sam recruiting-poster pose, to the JURASSIC PARK influence of the imaginary "Skullasaurus." Such pop-culture icons seem distinctly alien to the timeless bedtime-story milieu of the Hundred Acre Wood. Suitably, Pooh's "Grand Adventure" is hardly grand or a real adventure, though (despite
chronic bumbling) Pooh, Piglet and the rest prove their courage and loyalty simply by following through. For the benefit of young viewers, there's also a canned moral about Rabbit believing Owl's faulty map no matter what, singing, "Trust not what you think/'til it's printed in ink." But generally
the songs (by the husband-and-wife team of Michael Abbott and Sarah Weeks) are forgettable, while the fine animation displays painstaking care beyond the Disney Channel's previous two Pooh TV shows from the same production team. Of the talented vocal cast, John Fiedler and
ventriloquist-turned-surgeon Paul Winchell have been with the cartoons since their inception.
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: NR
- Review: Winnie the Pooh, star of an Oscar-winning series of Walt Disney short cartoons, came out of hibernation in 1997 with his first feature vehicle, done for the domestic straight-to-video market. In the archetypically pastoral Hundred Acre Wood, a boy named C… (more)