The package film was once a stable of Disney during the 1940s, but as World War II ended, the studio returned to narrative features. After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, the animated studio would go through yet another rough patch. After decades of trying to attain the rights, the first animated short featuring the characters from Pooh Corner debuted in 'Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree'. Two years later, 'Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day' was released, followed in 1974 by the short 'Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too'. The three shorts saw huge success for the studio, and since their animated features where still struggling following Walt's death, the three shorts were adapted into a feature-length film in 1977.
'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' really cemented the bear as a Disney icon. No longer was Disney adapting A.A. Milne's books, they had created a new mascot. The film itself isn't noteworthy; it's three shorts strung together by a thin story, a troupe DisneyToons would utilise in their direct-to-DVD Disney sequels. It packaged together the fundaments of Disney's Pooh - the simply genius music, the charming characters and the iconic art style that is still, to this day, a lot of kids' first introduction to the silly old bear.
The film created a multimedia franchise for the company, and the 80s saw its popularity grow. Two more shorts were produced, but things started to get even bigger in 1983. The Disney Channel was launched, not as the home for tweens it became in the early 2000s, but a pre-school based educational network. The channel debuted with 'Welcome to Pooh Corner', which was a live-action show where a narrator would tell a story and costumed characters would act out an adventure with Pooh and his friends. A few years later, and Pooh got a Saturday morning cartoon with 'The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' (the version of Pooh I grew up with), the characters' most up-to-date adaption. Taking place in modern America, and removing the storybook theme, it sees the characters explore the Hundred Acre Woods as well as modern places like movie theatres and grocery stores, while further cementing the Pooh Gang as a mascot of the company through merchandise. It also saw Pooh gain a major parks presence, with many rides and character meet-and-greets around the world.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, the franchise further kicked into gear with the first films in three decades, starting with 'Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin' in 1997. It could be the combination of coming out the year I was born and having my name in the title, but I consider this one of the best adventures; it's highly nostalgic for me. A few more direct-to-DVD features were produced along with 'The Book of Pooh' in 2001, a new TV show featuring the gang transformed into puppets. But then the spin-off films arrived - first 'The Tigger Movie' in 2000, 'Piglet's Big Movie' in 2003 and 'Pooh's Heffalump Movie' in 2005 - another staple in my childhood, with most of these movies being me and my siblings' first outing to the cinema. Along with these films came an onslaught of merchandise, and in turn further cemented the characters as pre-school mascots across the globe.
'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' really cemented the bear as a Disney icon. No longer was Disney adapting A.A. Milne's books, they had created a new mascot.
The gang would return to the official Walt Disney Animated Feature line-up in 2011, with 'Winnie the Pooh', which is the last hand-drawn feature produced by the studio to date. It was both a beautiful return as well as a send-off for those fans who haven't visit the Hundred Acre Woods since they were kids. Coupled with the 2018 live-action film 'Christopher Robin', the only entry in the franchise that is more targeted at adults. However Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Little Roo kind of feel like they are being put to rest. While merchandise is still selling like crazy, and the last report notes that the franchise is worth around $6 billion for Disney, the media franchise appears to have run its course for now.
'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' is one of the simplest films in Disney Animation Studios' 50+ film line-up, but there is a reason children view it more than 40 years on and are still comforted by that silly old bear.