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Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin (1997)



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1977's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (which was a compilation of shorter features dating back as early as 1968) is a classic animated film and the definitive cinematic Pooh. This made-for-video animated film, made in 1997, about Winnie the Pooh and the gang (minus Kanga and Roo) was therefore a risky artistic venture.

The result is a mix of extremes, both good and bad. The good part is a minor miracle. Pooh's Grand Adventure actually manages to recapture that endearing charm and elegant simplicity that makes the characters and the original film so delightful. This is partly thanks to the dialogue, which stays true to the characters and their spirit. The other major factor is the exceptional job the vocal artists did in recreating the original voices. Of the cast, only John Fiedler (Piglet) and Paul Winchell (Tigger) reprise their roles, but the new voices are all extremely close approximations of the old. Even Sterling Holloway's distinctive voice for Winnie the Pooh was successfully mimicked by Jim Cummings. Ken Sansom's Rabbit is the furthest off the mark, and even that is perfectly acceptable.

But the bad side of Pooh's Grand Adventure is oppressive. The lesser of the two gaping flaws that mar the film are the uncharacteristic, out of place musical numbers. Of late, many of Disney's musical numbers have been fashioned after the standard set by the Pink Elephants number in Dumbo -- morphing, dreamlike sets that characters float around, engaged in various activities, popping in and out of view along with surreal, often symbolic props. The style is fine in its place, but Winnie the Pooh is not the place. And it doesn't help that the majority of the songs are insufferably bland.

Even worse, the production is scarred by a inordinately heavy-handed moral lesson of self-reliance.

Does the good outweigh the bad? For kids, yes. For adults, there's no good general answer. Myself, I'm a moderately avid Winnie the Pooh fan and found Pooh's Grand Adventure good fun in spite of its shortcomings. Unlike the original film, though, I don't predict I'll ever actively seek a repeat viewing.

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