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Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh DVDs: Vol. 1: A Great Day of Discovery | Vol. 2: Friends Forever
Vol. 3: All for One, One for All (2005 Target exclusive) | Vol. 4: It's Playtime with Pooh | Vol. 5: Love & Friendship

Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: Love & Friendship DVD Review

Buy Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: Love & Friendship (Volume 5) from Amazon.com Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: Love & Friendship

The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Show Details
Directors: Karl Geurs, Terence Harrison

Writers: Mark Zaslove, Stephen Sustarsic, Bruce Talkington, Terrie Collins, Bruce Reid Schaeffer, Marley Clark, Jymn Magon

Voice Cast: Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger), Paul Winchell (Tigger), John Fiedler (Piglet), Ken Sansom (Rabbit), Peter Cullen (Eeyore), Michael Gough (Gopher), Tim Hoskins (Christopher Robin)

DVD Details
Running Time: 55 Minutes (4 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio), Dolby Digital Stereo (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
Episodes Originally Aired Between 1989 and 1991
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase

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A Tuesday a few weeks in either direction from today has brought or will bring a new wave of popular Disney animated TV series from the 1980s and '90s to DVD in box sets. With a couple of exceptions, all the shows selected for this fan-pleasing treatment reconfigured some of the studio's classic characters,
giving enduring personalities new lifestyles more conducive to contemporary, episodic storytelling. Curiously, the more faithful adaptations of Disney characters and worlds have eluded Disney's box set radar. Despite the popularity of the movies that spawned them, "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" TV series remain missing from the DVD marketplace aside from random episode inclusions on some Disney Princess discs. "Timon & Pumbaa", spun off from The Lion King, has seen three DVDs overseas, but none here. More of "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" has found its way to DVD. However, it has come only in such a fashion that it's almost worst and certainly less promising a situation than the absent majority facing those other series.

That's because this Emmy-winning cartoon has made its way to DVD only as Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh, a series which is only concerned in appeasing viewers under the age of 5 (and, to some degree, their parents). In the UK (the birthplace of A.A. Milne's lovable roly-poly), the line is called The Magical World of Winnie the Pooh (but is otherwise identical) and there have been eight such discs made available. The US launched Growing Up two years later and still has some catching up to do, even with the equivalent series stalled in Region 2. Love & Friendship is the fifth volume to make it to American retailers, though only the fourth you're likely to find on store shelves. (The third volume, All For One, One For All, was available only as part of a Pooh 2-pack at Target stores briefly last fall.)

Does that title Love & Friendship mean anything? Not especially. There's as much friendship present as there is in any Pooh story and "love" is merely an overdramatic way to characterize the same element. There are two newly-created "stick puppet" shows, running a minute to ninety seconds each, some brief 5-second transitions, plus opening and closing Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh theme sequences. Beyond that, though, the feature presentation is entirely comprised of four episodes of "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", which were made and first aired in the late 1980s.

The lineup here does not feature the typically winning show at its very best. Each of the first three episodes throws a character into a dilemma: Piglet, Rabbit, and Tigger, over something which occurs that triggers a reaction par for that character. The fourth is slightly more sophisticated, and involves a primarily two-party battle of wits. Naturally, misunderstandings abound, as do funny lines and mannerisms that are more likely to be appreciated by older viewers than the young'uns this low-priced disc is supposed to babysit.

Small? No, Piglet is now "A Very, Very Large Animal." Having had his fill of seeing his garden trampled, Rabbit locks himself in a fortress.

Here's a look at the four episodes presented here:

"A Very, Very Large Animal" (1989?) (10:37)

Rabbit, Tigger, and Pooh try to cheer up Piglet -- who is bummed over his diminutive size -- by convincing him he's huge. When that backfires, Piglet takes off.

"No Rabbit's a Fortress" (1989) (15:55)

It's Rabbit's turn to throw a fit. Irritated by intruders to his garden and the damage they do, Rabbit builds a fortress and locks himself in, while Gopher, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger try to blow him out.

"Stripes" (1988) (10:35)

No, it's not the Hundred Acre Wood gang's take on the Bill Murray military comedy of the same name. Instead, a bath makes Tigger lose all his stripes. In response, (since there's obviously no such thing as a stripeless Tigger), the bouncy one tries to adapt to life as something he might be: a rabbit, a bear, and so on.

"Tigger's Shoes" (1989) (10:38)

In an effort to relocate Tigger's bouncing, Rabbit invents The Awesome Bunny of Upsidaisia, a relative he claims is the world's greatest bouncer. Throw in some constricting "special" shoes, and Tigger can't help but keep trying to get up Castle Ridge in one single bound.

Oh no! Tigger has lost his "Stripes"! In "Tigger's Shoes", Rabbit has a plan to keep Tigger's bouncing far away.

As usual, the show's wonderful original opening title sequence has been dropped altogether
and the end credits have been bunched together to play in succession at the very end of the feature program. Interestingly enough, one set of credits (on "A Very, Very Large Animal") is missing in favor of credits for another trio of episodes not found here.

One oddity exists in the runtime department. Most "New Adventures" episodes were aired to share a half-hour timeslot with another. That is the case for three of the episodes on this disc, which run just over 10 minutes sans credits and commercials. "No Rabbit's a Fortress" runs an unusual 16 minutes, however, which is quite a bit short of what's necessary to sustain a half-hour episode, but about one and a half times the other episodes meant to fill a quarter-hour block.

As for the new additions, while the transitions are swift and unobjectionable (though plainly unneeded), the two stick puppet shows are less forgivable. These, which utilize a flat paper cut-out visual style (as does everything else created for the series), talk down to viewers in a way that the show and preceding Pooh featurettes never did. The first one (1:23) finds Tigger and Eeyore trying each other's favorite activities, at Pooh's encouragement. It ends with a message about everyone being special in their own way. The second (1:02) discusses a gift Christopher Robin gives to Piglet, Tigger, and Pooh.

While these little vignettes are clearly there to support the educational values boasted on the package, I honestly think there's more good to be had in four iterations of the theme song. After all, what is a kid more likely to appreciate: an umpteenth imparting of generic mores or a catchy theme song set to an exciting montage? And what is a parent more likely to treasure: their kids quoting life lessons (not from them, but) from a DVD short or hearing/preserving their young one sing the theme song in that adorable youngster way? To me, at least, the answer to each is obvious.

And, of course, that assumes that only preschoolers and the occasional parent are interested in watching this program 15-20 years after it first aired. Such an assertion is unreasonable. No matter how much Disney does to put Pooh and company in the same class as Dora the Explorer, Little Einsteins, and Thomas the Tank Engine, it won't change the fact that "New Adventures" is a fine product of the same era that gave us shows like "DuckTales", "TaleSpin", and "Darkwing Duck", programs which continue to entertain audiences of a wide range of ages to this day.

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Between puppet shows like this or the original opening title sequence, I'd choose the latter. No stripes, no problem. Maybe Tigger could be a Christmas tree...

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality in this 1.33:1 fullscreen presentation leaves a great deal to be desired. There are a fair amount of print flaws present. Vertical lines show up and mar the screen from time to time, but not as often as tiny blemishes that last less but distract more. Colors are overly bright and bleed; at times, they're downright unsightly. If you look at screencaps of single frames like those which spice up this review, things won't seem so bad. In full motion video, though, the issues are numerous and disappointing. In short, the video here pales even next to the fairly thrifty treatment given to other Disney 'toons from this era like "Rescue Rangers" and "DuckTales."

As far as the two-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack is concerned, there aren't the abundant issues staring you right in the face asking to be pointed out. Still, the simple mix is definitely not fantastic. There's mild distortion which isn't really troubling, but the elements do sound fairly anemic. As an aural presentation, this is probably more faithful to the show's original state and therefore, doesn't merit the types of complaints the video does for falling short of expectations.

The "Up, Down, Touch the Ground" Sing Along Song is fairly self-explanatory. How many pink Piglet hearts are there? This is the type of challenge the Hundred Acre Wood Heart Game poses. Piglet appears with a balloon in the slow pan that is the animated Main Menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

As usual, there are no monumental extras to be found. A sing along song for "Up, Down, Touch the Ground" (1:32) provides a brief and worn-looking excerpt from Winnie the Pooh and The Honey Tree of Pooh's simple exercise-to-build-appetite mantra melody. The only other bonus is the Hundred Acre Wood Heart Game, a set-top activity which involves counting paper hearts based on their color/the regular Pooh character they feature.
Brief and unchanged on return visits, this game is good for no more than a couple of minutes of entertaining those young enough to consider counting up to 6 a challenge, apparently and short-sightedly the disc's target demographic.

Like any Disney DVD that young children might take in interest in, this one is "enhanced" with FastPlay, enabling the disc to be played without so much as the push of a remote control button. This passive playback method ensures that you view all the promotions found on the two-page Sneak Peeks menu. Pre-feature promos tout The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition, Disney Princess Fairy Tales: Volume 1 (since renamed Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: A Kingdom of Kindness and delayed a year), the summer 2006 wave of Winnie the Pooh Disney Learning Adventures, and Little Einsteins: Mission Celebration! Post-feature previews look at Cars (the theatrical release), Brother Bear 2, the 2006 reissue of Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, and Playhouse Disney's "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse."

Promotions don't stop at video. Inside the case is a reservation form for one of Disney's recently-launched parent-aimed publications plus a double-sided insert that lists the disc's modest contents and again promotes last summer's Learning Adventures discs. The Main Menu matches others in the series, with a slow pan through a distinctly two-dimensional (and not accurate) representation of the Hundred Acre Woods. With magenta flowers, falling green leaves, and a hearty supply of near-neon butterflies and bumblebees, this is hardly different from the other volumes.

Maybe dynamite can help the Hundred Acre Wood gang turn up some box sets for their show. Tigger, Pooh, and Rabbit try to diagnose their pal Eeyore's piggie problem.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" is the type of the show that deserves to be recommended, but its DVD treatment continues to disappoint. Compilations in this Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh series serve up random, butchered episodes with lacking transfers and disposable misdirected bonuses, all at a per-episode cost which dwarves longer episodes of shows given more fulfilling box sets.

Love & Friendship does not differ considerably from the volumes which came before it. In fact, its episode selection is a slight bit weaker, which makes it easier to turn down. Yet again, that is your only option aside from settling for less than ideal presentations of a generally great series.

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UltimateDisney.com | Review Index | Upcoming Disney DVDs | Recent Disney DVDs | Disney TV Shows | The Ultimate Guide to Pooh

Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh DVDs: Vol. 1: A Great Day of Discovery | Vol. 2: Friends Forever
Vol. 3: All for One, One for All (2005 Target exclusive) | Vol. 4: It's Playtime with Pooh | Vol. 5: Love & Friendship

Related Reviews:
Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: It's Playtime with Pooh
Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: A Great Day of Discovery Growing Up with Winnie the Pooh: Friends Forever
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (25th Anniversary Edition) Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo
Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year Piglet's Big Movie Pooh's Heffalump Movie Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie
Sing Along Songs: Sing a Song with Pooh Bear and Piglet Too The Tick vs. Season One Quack Pack: Volume 1
DuckTales: Volume 1 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 1 TaleSpin: Volume 1 Goof Troop: Volume 1
Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 Under the Umbrella Tree: Volume 3 Disney Princess Stories: Volume 2 - Tales of Friendship
The Wild The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition The Fox and the Hound: 25th Anniversary Edition

Related Preorders:
November 7: Cars (Widescreen Edition) (Press Release)
November 14: Gummi Bears: Volume 1 (Fact Sheet) DuckTales: Volume 2 Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers: Volume 2
November 28: Robin Hood (Most Wanted Edition)
December 5: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - 2-Disc Collector's Edition Single-Disc (Press Release)
December 19: Walt Disney Treasures (Press Release): More Silly Symphonies The Complete Pluto, Volume 2 Your Host, Walt Disney The Hardy Boys
February 6, 2007: Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
March 6, 2007: Peter Pan: Platinum Edition

Reviewed October 17, 2006.