What the hell happened?! Disney seemed to be heading film-by-film in a direction that was rather positive. I’m a Disney cynic who’s reached his mid-thirties with no real knowledge or nostalgia for the magical, mysterious, romantic and fantastical world that is Walt’s multinational, publicly traded conglomerate and who is watching through all the Animation Studios films, one-by-one, in chronological order, because apparently a global pandemic isn’t enough of a punishment… After suffering greatly through the Forties and labouring through the Fifties and Sixties whilst seeing some rays of hope, the Seventies seem to be introducing a new era of Disney, in which ‘Aristocats’ and ‘Robin Hood’ put the days of Doe-snuff, paedo-princes and donkey-slave-children behind them, and allowed me to sit down to watch 80 minutes of animated entertainment with a smile (mostly) on my face… But then 1977 happened. And as anger was felt around the world and punk reared its nihilist head within society, Disney released ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’…
How I approach this review is conditioned by one key factor: To what demographic is this film intended?
Every single Disney Animation Studios feature, to this point in time, regardless of plot, presentation or purpose (entertainment or wartime Pro-Latin propaganda), have fallen neatly into the category of “family film”. The presentation and stories were always developed enough for an older audience, and often contained some more mature themes along with the silliness that kids love. If that’s the intention with ‘Winnie the Pooh’, then I have a problem. If this is a conscious attempt from Disney to side-step from the familiar path of (for me sometimes torturous) family entertainment and adapt a story and aim it specifically at younger children, then I still don’t like it much, but I can forgive what they’re doing…
I’m sure there are some adults who grew up with Winnie the Pooh who are loving seeing characters from their childhood brought to life as well. But for a picky adult like me who is mostly unfamiliar with the lunatics, gluttons and bastards that frequent The Hundred Acre Wood, the unavoidable fact is that this film was not made for me. It’s not like it’s been the film I’ve hated the most so far. Granted, I definitely didn’t like it… Ultimately there was just nothing that was keeping my attention on the screen in front of me. A big contributing factor, at least for me, was the fact it was ‘The “Many” Adventures of Winnie The Pooh’. Therefore, many small, and not one big adventure. This means there wasn’t a singular plot that had the full attention of the films run-time to fully develop and evolve to a satisfying conclusion. Instead, the movie consists of three simple, short stories randomly plucked from the original book (or books) with a self-plagiarising elephant freak out chucked in.
Then we move onto the characters. Again, if you grew up with them, you probably have this special affinity with them, and their presence alone may invoke fuzzy feelings of comfort and warmth. I alas, have no nostalgia to cover my feelings of frustration, apathy and sometimes sheer dislike towards them. There have been many conspiracy theories rolling around over the years apparently, regarding “hidden meanings” about what the characters are meant to represent which could explain their peculiar and sometimes unpleasant behaviour. These were mostly theorized no doubt, by stoned students who were choosing to spend their time philosophising about the underlying representations of stuffed toys in an AA Milne children’s series, rather than study. A popular theory is that each character represented a different mental health issue. I’m not touching that one with a six-foot barge pole. And although some of the characters can fit nicely into that narrative, others don’t. The same can be said for the other popular conspiracy that each animal is addicted to and constantly under the influence of a different narcotic. Not only do you occasionally have to put square pegs in round holes to make the theme work, but substance addiction is again a rabbit hole I have no intention in going down. Or for that matter, be like Winnie the Pooh and get stuck in it with my arse hanging out.
For me, the connection between the characters is somewhat broader and simpler (and bear in mind whichever metaphor is accurate, they are still personalities that AA Milne decided to put his son in a fantasy world with). In my mind they are all what eventually became of various different dicks we knew, and if we were unlucky, befriended at school.
Winnie the Pooh. He loves honey. He’s not addicted to honey. It’s honey. He just REALLY likes honey and is intrinsically greedy and selfish. He reminds me of the type of kid lots of people would know at school, that was just out for whatever he could get. The sort of kid that would randomly call round your house “to play” one day, even though he never had in his entire life until now… and it just so happened you had just bought a shit-hot new game for your PlayStation One. That he’s desperate to play. But just like Pooh and his desire for honey, he doesn’t just say his intentions outright. This bellend from your youth, will instead chat to you and hang out, and all is well. But then casually, and with a pronounced look over to the part of the room your games console is sitting, will say with an overdose of innocent surprise, “Oh! I forgot you had a PlayStation! I like PlayStations! Have you heard about that amazing game that came out last week? Wait, you have it? Wow! You’re SO lucky, I wish I could play it…” Eugh. Wanker.
Pooh displays the same tendencies. He goes round to Rabbit’s house, after some false amiability, convinces Rabbit to allow him to stay for lunch, and then manipulates his way into having access to the honeypot. And eats ALL of it.
When reviewing this film, someone in internet land stated, “It’s not probable anyone with two-digit age would find it interesting, but it is sweet as honey and only someone without a heart could resist loving this chubby bear.” I very much agree with their sentiment essentially saying, “for people over nine, it’s possible you will find it pretty fucking dull”, but needing to be heartless to resist loving this chubby bear? Well when that kid comes round my house and after twenty minutes of pleasantries, worms his way into playing the game he’s desperate to try, and then doesn’t talk to you until your mum has to pretty much eject him from your premises, you won’t have feelings of love, you would think he’s a wanker. Because he is a wanker! And if he grows up and becomes a whore for sweet food just like he did for that computer game, and constantly heads round to people’s houses with one self-benefitting intention, and after some false pleasantries exclaims “ooh is it honey time? Say chum, do you have a cheeky bit of honey I could have?”, and then eats all of it even though it isn’t his, would your thoughts really be “I must be really heartless because I’m not feeling love for this self-absorbed-greedy-manipulative-piece-of-shit-bear that treats friendships as a commodity for his own gluttony!!! No, he’s a dick! Fuck you Pooh, fuck you! *exhale* Wow, I never thought I would write anything where I would be saying ‘fuck you’ to Winnie the Pooh…
Some people will argue, that Winnie the Pooh is very different to a shameless, self-absorbed schoolkid because he’s cute and furry with a podgy tummy. Well that podgy tummy is podgy, not just because of stuffing, but because of limitless greed from honey that wasn’t even his to consume. It’s a podgy tummy of excess and shame. People then may argue, yes but don’t forget that Pooh is a bear of “very little brain” and would therefore not have the intellectual capacity to comprehend cause and effect, social conventions or to question his own baser instincts. I bet that in his youth at The Hundred Acre Academy for Stuffed Teddies he could have developed his brain far, far more than he did. I bet that every day, the teacher would ask him “What’s 2+2 Pooh?” and he would reply “Oh I don’t know, 9? It’s so hard to think on an empty stomach, it must be lunchtime. Excuse me sir could you spare me a bit of your honey? Say Piglet, so erm… brought any new PlayStation games lately?” Ultimately Pooh is a case of wasted potential and greed. No wonder Rabbit pretended he wasn’t home when Pooh came a knocking.
Now I would feel sorry for Rabbit if it weren’t for the fact that he was the biggest dick of the lot. He reminds me of the kid at school who would not show any discernibly positive qualities; no sense of humour, not particularly intelligent, not particularly fun to be around, but yet would be usually surrounded by sycophants that would bow to him because they knew he was enough of a sadistic sociopath and usually built like a brick-shithouse enough to literally be a danger to cross. The sort of kid that when there was a camping trip (if you like that sort of outdoorsy shit), there would be a scenario where one of the kids becomes tiresome to the other, became the victim of their practical jokes. So, the kids suggest hiding his hat, putting ants in his bag or trapping him in his tent or whatever it is that regular arsehole children do. And then the sociopathic kid in question pipes up by suggesting that they tie him up to a tree, set fire to his hair and then pack up and leave him. All with a look a sheer glee on his face. The one who takes it way, way too far, but may well get his wish because it’s too scary for the more cowardly kids of the group to say no. When Tigger (that’s a T and I, two G’s and an ER…) annoys Rabbit, his approach to dealing with his bouncy nature, is to get him so lost in a dark wood, that he becomes a fearful, destroyed shell of his former self and would no longer want to bounce. Pretty damn mean. Piglet and Pooh know its hideous, but like the cowards they are, they go along with it.
Usually if the sadistic kid has a brain, he will grow up to be a cut throat businessman who screws over everyone he can for pleasure as well as to enrich himself, until the day he retires all alone because of all the hookers and broke because of all the drugs. He has become Rabbit. On the downside, he still relishes the chance to be a dick when he can, and his peers, like Tigger (that’s a T and I, two G’s and an ER…) will suffer. But on the upside, he’s mostly just bitter and miserable that he’s no longer as powerful and important as he used to be. And if we’re lucky he may also have a bear stuck in the hole of his front door for weeks on end that he can’t remove, with his arse sticking out into his living room. And let’s be honest, I doubt that that much honey digests particularly well, in fact it probably goes in one end and straight out the other, and a few weeks is a long time…. Best get a mop Rabbit. Just saying. Karma, Motherfucker!
Tigger (that’s a T and I, two G’s and an ER…) is the kid that was “the life and soul of the party”. He’s exhausting, will drag every conversation onto himself, interject in every single conversation, shriek a lot and in extreme cases will spell their own name a lot (that’s a T and I, two G’s and an ER…) As an adult they are EXACTLY the same. But with their own YouTube “reactions” channel….
Owl is the kid that compensates for their lack of self-esteem by constantly promoting their own intelligence, even if it’s wildly misplaced. As he grows up this self-promotion expands to other areas too. Whenever you tell them that you’ve done something, this will also invariably lead to them telling a longwinded story in which they’ve done the same thing but much better. Even though they probably haven’t. If you’ve trekked across the Sahara, you can guarantee that you will hear a blow-by-blow account about how he trekked across the Sahara twice and became a hero by building a well in Timbuktu before helping a chap called Edgar get a plane ticket back to his hometown of Paris… Unfortunately for them, the innate dipshit-ness will be exposed from time to time. Like when they have to spell ‘Happy Birthday!’ but get it wrong. Twice.
Owl also lacks the intelligence to build a sturdy home, which results in it being blown away. He eventually finds a new home to live, which turns out to be piglets. A true wise owl would not look at a Pigs home (or sty, if you will) as an adequate abode! Firstly, it’s on the ground. Secondly, when he heads inside and sees a piglet sized bed, a trough in the kitchen, pictures showing cousins Peppa and George on the wall and presumably a huge pile of mud to roll around in on the floor, you would think at that point that Owl would have the decency to say, “oops, this is clearly a pigs home, I’ll be going now…”
The fact that Piglet doesn’t call Owl out on this, and basically gives away his own home for literally nothing, could suggest that Piglet is a kind, selfless hero, who put others ahead of himself. But Piglet can’t fool me! He’s the kid who attaches himself to the biggest bully in the playground because he is filled with such an innate sense of fear and self-doubt, that he cannot say no to anyone, especially someone who is overbearing, intimidating and sadistic. So, on the theoretical camping trip, Piglet will be the one to get the ropes for the bully to tie the poor victim to the tree, despite his misgivings, because the fear of not doing so is too much to bear. In this film, he goes along with Rabbits insane “let’s scare the living fuck out of Tigger (that’s a T and I, two G’s and an ER…)” plan, because he’s too cowardly not to. And when Owl takes Piglets home, Piglet doesn’t stay quiet through philanthropic nobility, he stays quiet because he’s too scared to rock the boat. Having to move in with a honey-whore seems like quite a fitting punishment if you ask me… You know who Piglet reminds me of? Wormtail from the Harry Potter series.
There was always a kid at school that would always find the negative in everything. They weren’t depressed or anything like that, just negative. If a group of you found a bag of gold, they would bring down the whole celebratory vibe by complaining about the dust on it. Or telling you about the time they lost a bag of gold… Essentially, it’s a bloody good way to divert the attention from the bag of gold, back onto them. If left unchecked this habit could lead them into growing up to become Eeyore. True, it would become fairly demoralising after a while if you kept having to have a tail with a pin essentially rammed back onto your arsehole, but you would adapt. Or just stop wearing the damn tail. But more than anything else, it just seems that Eeyore complains when the attention is diverted elsewhere…
You know that kid you went to school with that you completely forgot existed because they were so irrelevant to your existence, until you saw a class photo many years later? That’s Kanga, Roo and Gopher who I totally forgot were even in the film until I looked at Wikipedia just now…
So, to summarise, the main reason I’ve ranted about the characters for so long, is because I can barely remember the plot. That should tell you all you need to know about how much of an impression this film left. Probably about as much of an impact that Kanga, Roo and Gopher did. But it has been a while since I’ve really had a good old rant in a review, but I never thought that it would be Winnie the Pooh that brought that rage to the surface… And to answer the question of whether the film was aimed at young tots or at everyone, after much reading on the internet, I still don’t know. I’m not sure anyone does. Not even Disney.
Well there’s a surprise. My 37-year-old husband wasn’t enamoured with Winnie the Pooh. No real shocker is it.
I have a confession to make. I only saw this film for the first time a few months back. I enjoyed it for what it was. It’s cute and quite funny in parts. Our 6-year-old was half-watching it, whilst drawing, and found it funny at times (he’s a tough critic like his Dad!), so a child that actually likes films would probably enjoy it.
However, the blatent copying of Pink Elephants on Parade, by the Heffalumps & Woozels song? What the actual fuck?! There are no words. There was absolutely no need for the song to be in the film and the entire, generally calm, feel of the film suddently shifted into a complete head-fuck. Unforgiveable, Disney!
Anyway, onwards and upwards. We’ve got The Rescuers next, which is a film that I have seen a few times during my childhood, but haven’t watched since. So, not only am I interested in Ben’s take on it, but am looking forward to seeing if I enjoy it as an adult too.
The Many Adventues of Winnie the Pooh score: