Today’s grown-ups didn’t need much of an excuse to rediscover the original silly old bear. The same generation that gave Loggins & Messina a hit with ”House at Pooh Corner” more than 20 years ago has made Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet — two self-help books that explore Eastern philosophy through the actual stories and characters of Pooh Corner — swift best-sellers. It’s not surprising that adults would clutch the comforts of their youth, but can literary characters created in 1924 hold up 70 years later for a new audience of kids raised on Ninja Turtles and Biker Mice From Mars?
As Tigger would say: Absotutely posilutely. A wave of new video collections is being released throughout the year in honor of Winnie’s 70th anniversary, and they’re ringing cartoon proof that the key to the Pooh characters’ longevity is that each is a fully defined personality. Pooh himself — ”the bear of very little brain” — has the soul of a child, absorbed solely in the moment. Tigger is that mischievous, fun-to-be-with friend who does everything with a flourish. He has the attention span of a 2-year-old and knows no limits. And all kids know a gloomy Eeyore, a talkative Owl, and a know-it-all Rabbit.
Disney began bringing the stories that A.A. Milne wrote for his son — the real Christopher Robin — to the big screen in 1966. The four animated featurettes, including the Academy Award-winning Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (1968), have been rereleased as Pooh Storybook Classics and, remaining true to the tales inspired by Christopher Robin’s favorite stuffed toys, are still the best of the bunch.
In 1988, Christopher Robin lost his English accent and joined the Saturday-morning lineup. Ten volumes from that Disney show are available as The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Although Pooh will always remain a plush animal rather than an action figure — he hasn’t been transformed into Ninja Pooh — there’s enough excitement, including lots of slapstick and bad guys (heffalumps and woozles), to keep little ’90s adventurers happy.
Three more tapes of the TV episodes, each containing stories related to a specific theme, have also just been released as Pooh Playtime. Although the stories are as delightful as ever, when viewed together they tend to feel repetitive and lose some of their impact. Plus, there’s an unnerving moment in one story, when Pooh and the gang follow Christopher Robin into a modern grocery store. Part of Pooh’s appeal is his ability to transcend any time period or culture — he just is and he just does, and kids can take away the knowledge they need and use it on their own terms.
Benjamin Hoff explains Pooh’s charm as a Taoist principle: ”Things in their & original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.” For Pooh to last another 70 years, Disney had better let him stay in that enchanted forest known as the Hundred Acre Wood instead of sending him into a whole new world. Pooh Storybook Classics: A The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: A Pooh Playtime: B