Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree is a 1966 animated featurette based on the first two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. The film was directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and distributed by Buena Vista Distribution on February 4, 1966 as a double feature with The Ugly Dachshund. It was the last short film produced by Walt Disney, who died of lung cancer on December 15, 1966, ten months after its release. Its songs were written by the Sherman Brothers (Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman) and the score was composed and conducted by Buddy Baker.

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree poster 2.jpg
One of theatrical release posters. Piglet and Tigger, who did not appear in the film, here more closely resemble their appearance in the E. H. Shepherd illustrations.
Directed byWolfgang Reitherman
Produced byWalt Disney
Story by
Based onStories written
by A. A. Milne
Starring
Narrated bySebastian Cabot
Music byBuddy Baker
Production
company
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • February 4, 1966 (1966-02-04)
(USA) (with The Ugly Dachshund)
‹See TfM›
  • April 18, 1966 (1966-04-18)
(UK) (with Peter Pan)
Running time
26 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$6.2 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was the first animated featurette in the Winnie the Pooh film series, in which it was later added as a segment to the 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

It featured the voices of Sebastian Cabot as the narrator, Sterling Holloway as Winnie the Pooh, Junius Matthews as Rabbit, Bruce Reitherman as Christopher Robin, Clint Howard as Roo, Barbara Luddy as Kanga, Ralph Wright as Eeyore, Howard Morris as Gopher, and Hal Smith as Owl.

PlotEdit

Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear living in the Hundred Acre Wood, is disappointed to find that he is out of honey. He hears a bee fly by and decides to climb a nearby honey tree, but as he reaches the beehive, a branch he is sitting on breaks, causing him to fall into a gorse bush below. Pooh's best friend, Christopher Robin, gives Pooh a balloon and he tries to trick the bees by disguising himself as a Little Black Rain Cloud by rolling in a mud puddle and floating up to the beehive. He pulls out some honey and eats it without noticing that it is covered in bees. The bees fly around inside his mouth causing him to spit them out. One of which is the queen whom he kicks into the muddy patch below. Soon, Pooh's disguise starts to drip, to which the bees attack him. The queen sees this and angrily flies up and stings him on the bottom. The sudden hit causes Pooh to swing up and down and get stuck at the beehive, much to the queen bee's laughingstock at his expense, thinking that it's so funny (voiced by Dallas McKennon). He is then shoved out of the hole by the bees, who proceed to chase him away.

Pooh (hungry for honey), he decides to visit Rabbit's house. Rabbit reluctantly invites Pooh over for lunch. Pooh greedily helps himself to jars and jars of honey until there is none left. He tries to leave, but gets stuck in Rabbit's front door. When Rabbit finds Pooh stuck, he tries to push Pooh through and eventually discovers that not even with Christopher Robin pulling can they get him out. Christopher Robin suggests that they can try pushing him back if they can't pull him out. Christopher Robin tells Pooh that they can no doubt push him back in. But Rabbit disagrees. Thus, Christopher Robin has only one more solution. They must wait for Pooh to get thin again to the point where he can always be able to slip through Rabbit's front door. In the meantime, Rabbit decides to decorate Pooh's bottom so he will not have to face looking at him being stuck for so long, but when Rabbit tries to create a moose head on Pooh's bottom, it tickled Pooh which messed up the look. Then Rabbit mutters to himself that he never should've invited Pooh over to lunch (as he says, "Why did I ever invite that bear to lunch?"). While he is doing this, Kanga and Roo visit Pooh and give him some honeysuckle flowers which make Pooh sneeze, completely destroying the decoration, much to Rabbit's dismay. Rabbit is also forced to put up a "Don't feed the bear!" sign (forbidding anyone to feed Pooh at all) after Pooh tries to get honey from his friend Gopher late one night.

Finally, when a depressed Rabbit leans against Pooh one morning and feels him move a bit, he realizes that Pooh has gone thin. Ecstatic, Rabbit and Christopher Robin gather their friends to get Pooh out. Everyone except Rabbit pulls from outside while Rabbit pushes from inside. After many pulls and pushes from both sides, Rabbit finally shoves Pooh with a running start, and Pooh is launched free from Rabbit's door and into the air, and lands headfirst into the hole of another honey tree, scaring the bees away. Although his friends offer to free him, Pooh does not mind being stuck again, as his being stuck headfirst in the tree means he can now gorge himself on the vast amount of honey stored inside.

Voice castEdit

ProductionEdit

Walt Disney first learned of the Winnie the Pooh books from his daughter, Diane. "Dad would hear me laughing alone in my room and come in to see what I was laughing at," Diane later recalled. "It was usually the gentle, whimsical humor of A. A. Milne's Pooh stories. I read them over and over, and then many years later to my children, and now to my grandchildren."[2] As early as 1938, Disney expressed interest in obtaining the film rights to the Pooh books by first corresponding with the literary agency Curtis Brown. In June 1961, Disney acquired the film rights. By 1964, Disney told his animation staff that he was planning to make a full-length animated feature film based on the books. A meeting was held with senior staff members to discuss the proposed film. However, during the meeting, Disney decided not to make a feature film, but instead a featurette that could be attached to a live-action film.[3]

For the first film, Walt and his collaborators turned to the first two chapters of the first book, "In which we are introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and some honey Bees, and the stories Begin", and "In which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets into a Tight Place".[4] The scene where Rabbit deals with Pooh's being part of the "decor of his home", was not from the original book, and was reportedly contemplated by Disney when he first read the book.[5] Following the mixed reception of Alice in Wonderland (1951), he turned the project over to staff members who were nonchalant with the original stories. He selected Wolfgang Reitherman to direct the project in hopes of Americanizing the characters and including more humor. Reitherman cast his son, Bruce, to voice Christopher Robin and the character of Gopher, who does not appear in the original stories, was added to the cast. Because other "Nine Old Men" animators were working on The Jungle Book (1967), only Eric Larson and John Lounsbery were assigned to animate the characters. Other character animators such as Hal King, John Sibley, and Eric Cleworth were brought onto the project.[6]

MusicEdit

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
Soundtrack album by
Released1965
Recorded1964–65
GenreChildren's
LabelDisneyland Records
ProducerSalvador Camarata

All songs were written by Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote most of the music for the Winnie-the-Pooh franchise over the years, subsequently incorporated into the 1977 musical film, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is an amalgamation of the three previous Winnie-the-Pooh featurettes including "Honey Tree". The score, which was composed by Buddy Baker, drew inspiration from Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and had different instruments represent the characters: baritone horn for Pooh, bass clarinet for Eeyore, flute for Kanga, piccolo for Roo, clarinet for Rabbit, oboe for Piglet, French horn and ocarina for Owl, and bass harmonica for Gopher.[7]

The insight and inspiration for the Pooh songs came from an unlikely source, as is explained in the Sherman Brothers' joint autobiography, Walt's Time:

Walt (Disney) said 'Read the Pooh stories and let me know what you think.' We tried, but the stories just weren't coming through to us. At that time designer Tony Walton was working on Poppins. He was English born, and he was about our age, so we asked him to give us some insight on the Pooh character. His eyes lit up. 'Winnie the Pooh?', he said. 'I love Winnie the Pooh! Of course I'll help you!' Three hours later, he was still talking about Pooh, inspiring us no end. He explained how he had been a chubby little boy, and had felt very insecure. But Winnie the Pooh was his buddy, because Pooh was pudgy and proud of it. Pooh was probably the only character in the world who exercised to gain weight! Pooh was a wonderful, lovable friend who would never let you down or turn his back on you. Soon, we started to fall in love with Pooh ourselves. Our songs for Winnie the Pooh were truly a love affair, thanks to A. A. Milne and to Tony Walton.[8]

In advance of the featurette's theatrical release, Disneyland Records released several LP albums accompanied with a read-along book. The first one, titled Walt Disney's Story of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, also known as the "Storyteller" version, was released in May 1965. It contained a narration of the story from Sebastian Cabot along with dialogue and sound effects from the featurette itself along with the songs. A second double-sided album was released which featured a soundtrack of the featurette's songs.[9] Among those listed was "Mind over Matter" in which the characters encourage Pooh to think about getting thinner again. The song was later reworked into the "Heave Ho" song in the final film.[10] Another song titled "Kanga's Lullaby" is sung by B.J. Baker, but according to historian Dave Smith, the song was added as extra material for the album.[11]

No.TitleLead vocalsLength
1."Winnie the Pooh"Disney Studio Chorus 
2."Up, Down, Touch the Ground"Sterling Holloway 
3."Rumbly in My Tumbly"Holloway 
4."Little Black Cloud"Holloway; Bruce Reitherman 
5."Mind Over Matter"Disney Studio Chorus 

ReleaseEdit

The film was released on February 4, 1966 in Florida, and was later spread all over the United States days later, as a supplement to Disney's live-action feature The Ugly Dachshund. It would later be included as a segment in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which included the two further Pooh featurettes, released on March 11, 1977.

During the fall of 1966, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was re-issued for the second time in America, as a supplement to Disney's live-action feature The Fighting Prince of Donegal.[12] Since the film became so popular in America, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was reused twice in local city theaters during 1967 as an extra feature to Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. in Spokane, Washington and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin in Philadelphia.[13][14]

The film had its network premiere on March 10, 1970 as a television special on NBC.[15] The film became a popular annual repeat for most of the decade until its last showing on November 25, 1977. That same year, NBC had also acquired the broadcasting rights to Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day,[16] which premiered on October 4. Additionally, the specials were sponsored by Sears, who was then the exclusive provider of Pooh merchandise.[17]

On March 16, 1986, the featurette was shown for the first time on ABC as part of the Disney Sunday Movie television program along with two cartoons, a Chip 'n' Dale cartoon Chicken in the Rough (1951) and a Donald Duck with Chip 'n' Dale cartoon Chips Ahoy (1956). Originally on that day, the company was supposed to run the 1973 film Robin Hood but due to an ABC News Special Report on President Ronald Reagan's telecast speech later that day, ABC decided to reschedule the film and ended up playing Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and the 2 cartoons enable to broadcast President Reagan's telecast speech afterwards. Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and the 2 cartoons were later reran on ABC for the second time on September 7, 1986. The film later returned to NBC on January 21, 1990.[citation needed]

Cancelled theatrical re-releaseEdit

On December 5, 2011, Don Hall, who directed the 2011 Winnie the Pooh feature film, revealed that Disney originally planned to release a remastered version of Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree featuring scenes deleted from the original version. However, the idea was discarded in favor of a new film due to lack of enough deletd footoage to "make it worthwhile".[18]

ReceptionEdit

The short initially received mixed reception.[19] Howard Thompson of The New York Times said that "[t]he Disney technicians responsible for this beguiling miniature have had the wisdom to dip right into the Milne pages, just the way Pooh paws after honey...The flavoring, with some nice tunes stirred in, is exactly right—wistful, sprightly and often hilarious.[20] Kenneth Tynan of The Observer felt "The sedate foolishness of Pooh is prettily captured, and there are very few offensive additions. Purists, however, will rightfully baulk at such innovations as the stammering gopher and the songs, in one of which Pooh is made to sing: 'Speaking poundage-wise / I improvise my appetite when I exercise.'"[21] Likewise, the Daily Mail wrote that "It appears in the Very Unenchanted Forest of film commerce, a gopher is worth more than a Piglet!" E. H. Shepard felt the replacement was "a complete travesty", and Felix Barker of The Evening News ran a campaign opposed to the change.[22] A. A. Milne's widow, Daphne, is said to have liked it.[19]

Winnie the Pooh featurettesEdit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966". Variety. January 4, 1967. p. 8.
  2. ^ Fanning, Jim (February 4, 2016). "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree: Did You Know?". D23. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  3. ^ Finch 2000, pp. 33–35.
  4. ^ "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree: Behind The Very First Winnie the Pooh Film". Oh My Disney. August 9, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  5. ^ Finch 2000, p. 38.
  6. ^ Finch 2000, pp. 37–39.
  7. ^ Brandon, Emily (October 28, 2015). "8 Things You Didn't Know About Winnie the Pooh". Oh My Disney. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  8. ^ Sherman, Robert; Sherman, Richard (1998). Walt's Time: from before to beyond. Camphor Tree Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 978-0964605930.
  9. ^ Ehrbar, Greg (April 26, 2016). "Disney's "Winnie the Pooh & The Honey Tree" on Records". Cartoon Research. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  10. ^ Hischak, Thomas S.; Robinson, Mark A. (2009). The Disney Song Encyclopedia. Scarecrow Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0810869387.
  11. ^ Smith, Dave (2012). Disney Trivia from the Vault: Secrets Revealed and Questions Answered. New York: Disney Editions. ISBN 978-142315370-2.
  12. ^ "Theater Notes". The Baltimore Sun. September 19, 1966. p. B4. Retrieved August 27, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Lt. Robin Crusoe-Winnie the Pooh movie advertisement". The Spokane Chronicle. May 11, 1967. p. 18. Retrieved August 27, 2020.  
  14. ^ "Tonight's the Night to Go Out to a Movie! Neighborhood Theatre Guide". The Philadelphia Inquirer. March 12, 1967. p. 4. Retrieved August 27, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ "'Pooh' Special Set March". February 2, 1970. Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 18. Retrieved August 27, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.  
  16. ^ "Disney Plans Special on Children's Tale". Fort Lauderdale News. February 20, 1970. p. F17. Retrieved August 27, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.  
  17. ^ Fanning, Jim (February 4, 2010). "All Facts, No Fluff and Stuff". D23. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved November 24, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  18. ^ 'Winnie the Pooh': How the Disney Classic Became New Again
  19. ^ a b Finch 2000, pp. 49–50.
  20. ^ Thompson, Howard (April 7, 1966). "A Disney Package: Don't Miss the Short". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  21. ^ Tynan, Kenneth (March 27, 1966). "A ram in wolf's clothing". The Observer. p. 25. Retrieved July 2, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.  
  22. ^ Robb, Brian J. (2014). A Brief History of Walt Disney. Little, Brown Book Company. ISBN 978-1-472-11072-5.

BibliographyEdit

  • Finch, Christopher (2000). Disney's Winnie the Pooh: A Celebration of the Silly Old Bear. Disney Editions. ISBN 978-0786863525.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit