Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 31st, 2009
“Now this might be the room of any small boy, but it happens to belong to a boy named Christopher Robin, and like most small boys, Christopher Robin had toy animals to play with. And together they had many remarkable adventures in an enchanted place called The Hundred Acre Wood. But out of all of his animal friends, Christopher Robin’s very best friend was a bear called Winnie The Pooh.”
“Oh Bother”A.A. Milne was quite an eclectic writer. He wrote murder mysteries that even appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. From that fertile mind would also come a place known as the Hundred Acre Wood. In that select place some of literature’s finest characters had the greatest adventures any boy could imagine. And adventures are certainly no fun on your own. Young Christopher Robin was joined by Piglet, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore, and, of course, Winnie-The-Pooh. Who didn’t fall in love with that silly old bear… Winnie-The-Pooh. OK, so maybe Dahmer or Bundy might have been exceptions. Still, anyone growing up in the last 30-40 years who isn’t a psychopath has had a love affair with Winnie-The-Pooh, all stuffed with fluff.
Often when a company gets the rights to such classic characters they end up doing more harm than good, particularly if they include some quite radical changes to the beloved material. Walt Disney was first introduced to the stories after seeing his own children delighted by their adventures. His quick mind told him that this English story needed to be more formally introduced to American children. It took several years for the versions of these characters to evolve into what we so instantly recognize today. The original characters were quite different from these uniquely Disney inventions. I know the folks at Disney claim they stayed very true to the originals, but that simply isn’t true. Today the characters are recognized all over the world more in their Disney incarnations. More than the drawings, the voices of these characters have become very distinctive with those of us who grew up with them.
“This is gonna be the bestest Halloween ever with loads of lightnin’ and thunderous thunderin’ and windiferous winds breaking everywhere. Why we’re gonna be creepin’ and crawlin’ with spookables, at least a half a dump of spookables and bug-eyed woozles and saw-toothed jagulars..”
This 2005 effort from Walt Disney holds pretty true to the studio’s classic Pooh characters and stories. It’s narrated by David Odgden Stiers. While Christopher Robin is nowhere to be found, most of the classic friends are here, except for Owl. A new character is introduced. He is the very British Heffalump named Lumpy. Lumpy is a friend of Roo’s, and nothing like the stuff of Pooh Bear’s nightmares. Remember that Blustery Night when Pooh had terrible dreams of Heffalumps and Woozles that were after his honey? Lumpy’s not scary and doesn’t seem to have an interest in a certain bear’s pot of golden honey.
When Pooh Bear eats up all of the candy that could be found in the entire Hundred Acre Wood, it looks like there won’t be a Halloween after all. Everyone is a bit down in the mouth about the depressing turn of events. That is until Tigger tells the story of the Gabloon. The Gabloon is a scary Halloween creature. If he catches you he’ll turn you into a Jackerdy Lantern. But, if you can catch him first, he’ll be forced to grant you any wish that you want. Although they’re very frightened of the monster, Roo and Lumpy decide to sneak out and try to catch the Gabloon so they can wish for some candy and all of their friends can go trick or treating. Lumpy is really scared, so Roo tells him about another Halloween that was almost Hallowasn’t. A time that Piglet was too scared to go trick or treating with his friends. But Piglet learned to be brave, and so Roo and Lumpy decide that together they can be brave. But when they get separated, each fears the worst for the other. Of course, friendship prevails, and the gang have the bestest Halloween ever, just like Tigger predicted they would.
The only returning voice from the first days of Pooh is John Fiedler as Piglet. While Sterling Holloway was the original voice of Pooh and Paul Winchell was Tigger, Jim Cummings has been doing both voices for long enough that they sound very authentic here. The rest of the cast is reasonable enough.
Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. You’ll be pretty amazed at the video presentation here. Even in the age of high definition this standard DVD looks impressive. Colors are bright and alive with all of the major characters displaying spot on the way we remembered them The animation is smooth. Black levels are near perfect, as is contrast.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers pretty much dialog and music or effects. It’s fine for what it is. There are a few songs, and they have nice dynamic range, but this isn’t the kind of film that lives too widely in the surrounds. Dialog is excellent, allowing you to hear it all perfectly.
Most of the extras are a collection of kiddie games and some music.
Some of the newer Winnie The Pooh releases have been a little disappointing. The CGI stuff just doesn’t work for me, and the characters don’t appear to resemble the ones I grew up watching. Even Christopher Robin has been replaced by a politically correct little girl. I’m happy to report that this special was created in the more classic style with a story that fits into that collective memory many of us share. It’s not near the best of the Pooh releases, but it’s comfortable, and that makes it just OK with me. So gather your little ones, and don’t forget the Halloween candy. After all, “special occasions call for sweets”.