Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl and Christopher Robin have been my friends since…well, before I can remember. I grew up watching Pooh search for honey and listening to Tigger’s silly laugh. I dare you to watch any episode of film of Winnie the Pooh and not laugh when Tigger does.
Christopher Robin and co. have long been inspiring the minds of young children to find adventure in their own backyards through their own adventures. When you’re small, even a fenced in yard can be the Hundred Acre Wood, if you imagine it to be. There are always rocks to be looked under and trees to be climbed, not to mention the imaginary adventures that can spur on those activities. It makes the most sense in the world for Disney to do an adaptation of Winnie the Pooh because Walt and Winnie both inspire children to use their imagination.
For a period of my life I kind of forgot about Winnie the Pooh and friends. Then I began working at Barnes and Noble and a Classic Winnie the Pooh line came out for the children’s section. That’s when I began to fall back in love with the Hundred Acre Wood and the friends who live there. A few months later, ABC Family was playing their annual ’25 Days of Christmas’ movie marathon and what should play? The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, of course. I still don’t see how it’s considered a Christmas movie, but I love it so I’m not complaining. I tuned in during the Heffalumps and Woozles dream sequence, and boy was it clear THAT part was done in the 70’s. It’s definitely weird and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the movie. But I had missed the beginning, and it wasn’t until this project that I got to see the whole thing in its entirety for the first time in maybe twenty years (how is it that yesterday I was four years old and playing with rollie-pollies in the backyard and today I’m old enough to say things like ‘twenty years ago’ and be accurate? Where did that time go?).
I do remember watching, and loving, Disney’s television adaption The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The opening sequence with the owl always gave me the heebie-jeebies, though I can’t pinpoint why. Of course, Owl isn’t my favorite character, either. He’s a bit…pompous, but he’s still lovable. I do love Pooh, Tigger, Kanga and Roo. Rabbit is another character I’m not such a huge fan of—he’s a bit, er, high and mighty, perhaps? And a tad mean. Especially when he purposely tries to lose Tigger in the woods. He’s constantly trying to change Tigger, which I don’t care for. Friends love you for who you are, not who they’d prefer you to be. It does teach wonderful lessons, Rabbit getting lost in the woods while trying to lose Tigger.
Keeping with Disney tradition, the Disney Animation Studio released a new Winnie the Pooh movie last summer, July of 2011. On a chilly, rainy day, a friend and I went to see it. It was marketed with a popular song, but it retained all that is wonderful about Winnie the Pooh: Pooh’s endless quests for honey, Owl’s neverending stories, Eeyore’s melancholy worldview. Best of all, it introduced Winnie the Pooh and co. to a new generation of children, all the while staying true to the original A.A. Milne tales and putting Disney’s trademark on it simultaneously.
Ironically enough, A.A. Milne’s son’s name was Christopher Robin, and he wrote these short stories about his son and his toys. A friend of theirs sketched Christopher Robin playing, and that is how our lovable bear was born into the world of literature. The books were hugely popular in Europe and Britain in the 60’s, but not so much in the U.S. yet. So Walt released Winnie the Pooh featurettes throughout the 60’s and early 70’s, then released a compilation of them with a new, final ending in 1977. As always, Walt was right. He brought a love for Winnie the Pooh across the sea, and when the film was released in the 70’s America was already in love with that silly old bear.
The voice actor for Tigger is the one who came up with that trademark laugh and ‘TTFN—Ta ta for now!’ catchphrase. In an effort to have a little bit of America in the films full of British characters, the beaver was added. This beaver is practically a copy of the one in Lady and the Tramp, right down the same annoying whistle as he speaks. He wasn’t in the books, and even makes a joke by saying so. This quieted any dissent over a new character, as he clearly states himself that he isn’t in the book. Quite clever, if you ask me.
The ending was one I didn’t recall at all, and it made me quite sad. Christopher Robin essentially tells Pooh bear that he can’t do nothing anymore, and he has to go to school. He basically says he’s growing up now and can’t play anymore. He asks Pooh to never forget him, and to still have adventures. But that made me terribly sad, to see a child say goodbye to their childhood and the things they love. I may have given up playing with toys, but I kept those most valuable to my heart (my Loin King play-set is still in my parents’ garage, awaiting my [future] children, and I still have my favorite stuffed animal from when I was a baby, a puppy wearing pajamas I so aptly named ‘doggy’ or ‘puppy’, depending on my mood). I did give our next door neighbors a dollhouse I dearly loved, but we were moving and it felt silly to take two (I did bring with me a classic wooden one, which I ended up refinishing a few years ago. It is also in my parent’s care, waiting for the day I have children to play with it. I had to leave it in the Lower 48 when we moved to Alaska because moving here was so dang expensive).
I felt the end of the movie a little too sad, because you don’t have to say goodbye to your childhood. I try to live my life the way a child does, in some ways: I take joy in the simple pleasures, can still get lost in the imaginary world presented to me by a book or movie, and use my imagination to make everything more interesting. There’s nothing wrong with having the heart of a child, or with looking at the world through Disney-framed glasses. It’s much lovelier that way. Try it, you’ll see.