The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not flawless, the film displayed a generally stellar picture that rarely betrayed its age.
Sharpness seemed excellent. The movie always came across as nicely crisp and well defined. I detected virtually no signs of softness or fuzziness during this distinct and detailed presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, they seemed almost totally absent from the film. The image appeared slightly flickery at times, but otherwise, I discerned virtually no defects. The picture looked wonderfully clean and fresh other than a little light grain during the end sequences. Some parts of “Tigger Too” looked a little iffier, but that resulted from weaker artwork; that segment displayed less positive clean-up work, so it took on a slightly dirtier appearance.
Colors consistently came across as rich and vibrant. The cartoons displayed nicely vibrant and accurate tones, and they displayed no signs of bleeding, noise or other concerns. Black levels were deep and dense, while shadow detail looked clean and appropriately opaque. Some of the live-action segments appeared slightly flat, but the vast majority of the flick seemed solid. Overall, Adventures exhibited a top-notch image.
While the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack didn’t match up to the picture, it still worked fine for its age. For the most part, it presented “broad mono”, as the audio remained pretty heavily anchored in the center channel. However, the track did start to expand as the cartoons became more modern; “Honey” showed the weakest soundfield, while “Tigger” broadened things to a decent degree. Music demonstrated adequate stereo spread throughout the shorts, while effects offered reasonable but unexceptional presence. Again, the later programs worked best, as they demonstrated some acceptable movement and spread. The surrounds remained quite passive throughout the program, as they never did more than provide general reinforcement of the front spectrum.
Audio quality appeared fine for its age. Speech seemed acceptably distinct and natural. The lines were somewhat flat and stiff, but they showed no signs of edginess and they always remained intelligible. Music presented limited range but appeared reasonably bright and vivid. Effects also were somewhat thin, but they lacked distortion, and they also added some modest low-end response at times; for example, the crash of Owl’s house demonstrated fair bass. In the end, Adventures offered a decent soundtrack that was adequate for the material.
This 25th anniversary DVD of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh provides a good mix of extras. We start with The Story Behind the Masterpiece, a 25-minute and three-second documentary about the film. It provides clips from the film, some behind the scenes photos and art, and fairly contemporary interviews with Director of the Walt Disney Archives Dave Smith, storyman X. Atencio, animators Ollie Johnston, Burny Mattinson and Frank Thomas, songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman, and voice actors Paul Winchell and John Walmsley. While not a tremendously deep documentary, “Story” offers a lot of good facts about the series’ origins, Walt’s plans for it, and a variety of aspects of the production. From the songs to the animation to the casting, we learn quite a lot of good notes about the films. Overall, “Story” gives us a fun and informative look at Pooh.
Although Adventures fails to include an audio commentary, we do get Pooh’s Pop-Up Fun Facts. This subtitle track sporadically offers various tidbits. We learn some information about the production, the original A.A. Milne stories, facts about real-life animals, and a mix of other issues. The notes appear too infrequently to be of much value - lots of time passes between many of them - but some of the details seem interesting.
Next we see Winnie the Pooh and a Day For Eeyore, a 25-minute and 20-second animated short from 1983. This short covers Eeyore’s birthday, which finds him especially depressed because no one remembers it. (Actually, I don’t think any of the other critters ever knew when Eeyore’s birthday occurred, but he’s even mopier than usual nonetheless.) Pooh and the gang try to make the day special for Eeyore, and they succeed in that realm. Unfortunately, this results in a very bland cartoon that doesn’t succeed well. The filmmakers execute the story in a flat and lifeless manner, and the animation appears surprisingly weak. Colors suffer in particular; at times, Pooh’s body parts change hue simultaneously, and Rabbit takes on an unpleasant shade of pea green. I appreciate the inclusion of “Eeyore”, but I didn’t much enjoy the short itself.
In the Winnie the Pooh Art Gallery, you can choose between two different presentations. The “Video Gallery” shows the stills as one running nine minute and 15 second program. On the other hand, you can also check out the images through a “Still Gallery”, where we find 66 thumbnailed pictures. I appreciated the options and liked this collection of good material.
The 100 Acre Wood Challenge presents a simple interactive game. You can play as Pooh, Tigger or Rabbit; the contest differs for each, but we get nothing interesting in regard to various rewards. Oriented toward kids, it’s a simple game, or at least it would be if it were correct. The contest suffers from some mistakes, such as when it states that Pooh doesn’t own a honey pot clock.
In a music video-style presentation, Carly Simon performs The Winnie the Pooh Theme Song. This clip combines shots from the movie with images of Simon as she lip-synchs the tune. I can’t stand Simon and I didn’t enjoy her bland version of the number.
A “Disney Storytime” piece, Pooh’s Shadow provides the standard “read-along” program. Kids can either read the tale on their own or follow it as a narrator tells it to them. As someone who knows how to read fairly well, this does little for me, but it seems like a nice addition for the very little ones in the audience.
Another staple of Disney DVDs, we get a Sing-Along Song for “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers. It allows you to go Karaoke with the Tig. Since the DVD includes subtitles, I fail to understand the need for a separate piece like this, but I guess it doesn’t hurt.
The disc provides two exclusive sneak peeks. This means we find trailers for two upcoming projects: the 2003 theatrical release of Piglet’s Big Movie and the fall 2002 “direct-to-video” issue of Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year. Don’t expect anything from these other than advertising; the “sneak peeks” concept doesn’t relate any real information about the productions.
When you start the DVD, you’ll find the usual complement of advertisements. Here we get a preview of the upcoming theatrical release Lilo and Stitch as well as commercials for Beauty and the Beast, Rolie Polie Olie: The Great Defender of Fun, and Mickey’s House of Villains. From the main menu, you’ll discover a Sneak Peeks area that includes all of these promos plus trailers for Schoolhouse Rock, Snow Dogs, Air Bud: 7th Inning Fetch, Tarzan and Jane, Return to Neverland, Playhouse Disney, and Oliver & Company.
Lastly, Pooh features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.
During a weak period for Disney animation, 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh offered some of the studio’s best work. 25 years later, the program seems inconsistent but generally charming and winning. The DVD provides excellent picture along with positive sound and a reasonably good package of extras. Adventures will never be one of my favorite Disney films, but it possesses enough pleasure to make it worth a look.