This weekend’s new release Winnie the Pooh is a soft-spot for us blowhards at Movieline, as it combines cherished characters, a charming new story, and a slender run time. All wonderful things! However, in the past 50 years, Winnie the Pooh and his friends have enjoyed some not-so-pure moments on their numerous VHS adventures, and in honor of Pooh’s latest film, Movieline is shedding light on seven of those now. Heffalumps abound!
1. Tigger’s guilt delusions
In Detective Tigger, Private Ear (one of my favorites), Tigger becomes inspired to don a trench coat and investigate crimes on the mean streets of the Hundred Acre Wood. To establish his reputation, he stages a honey-pot robbery and pretends to solve it. But after he questions himself at the witness stand, guilt overcomes the sputtering gumshoe, and in a spiral of delusion, all of Tigger’s friends appear to turn into giant, looming honeypots.
2. Pooh almost gets “trounced” in the Wild West
When Pooh and his friends stage a play called “The Legend of Sheriff Piglet” (in the VHS featurette “Paw and Order”) they enter a Wild West dreamworld full of scenery and old-timey characters. The main outlaw in sight is Nasty Jack, a giant “horse thief” (because he’a a horse) whose favorite activity is “trouncing” — stuffing his nemeses into sacks, roughing them up, and dropping them. Yes, that’s right: Pooh was almost beat up.
3. Tigger descends a wishing well and discovers a 50-story cake
For his birthday in “All’s Well That Ends Wishing Well,” Tigger wants a million materialistic items including banana splits, pogo sticks, and Ping Pong tables, but when his friends disappoint him with cheap gifts, he seeks solace in an old wishing well — one that leads to a crazy-ass birthday cake with a million candles on it. When Tigger discovers that a candle blows out every time he makes a wish, he learns a valuable lesson about what’s really important. Before that, he wishes up a bunch of honey for Pooh, and we watch the Bear With Very Little Brain coast on a long, honey river. Pools of honey, waves of joy are drifting through Pooh’s open mind.
4. Discovering pygmy races in “The Land of Milk and Honey”
A honey-deprived Pooh ventures on a tropical journey with his friends (that takes a wrong turn at an annoying hyena) to “the Land of Milk and Honey,” a wonderworld where mini-Piglets run amok in cute outfits. It’s exotic, strange, and — hmmm — potentially racist, but the vistas are nice.
5. Pooh fixes the sky
Using a strange prismatic ladder to the clouds, Pooh spends some time bouncing on cumulus tufts in the nether regions of the troposphere. It’s a really cute and pretty VHS adventure, but it’s also a visual journey that I associate with virtual reality and psychedelia.
6. Tigger loses his stripes, and his friends don’t see him anymore.
In a semi-Biblical adventure of self-identity, a muddy Tigger takes a bath and loses all of his stripes. Here, the jumpsuited little Piglet inspects his immaculate friend, noting, “Very clean indeed — but uh, who are you?” It’s only when Tigger relearns to bounce around and enjoy himself that he regains his stripes. For the record, the site of stripeless Tigger is traumatizing.
7. Anything involving Heffalumps and Woozles
I give you the extraordinary, haunting, and children-unsafe video for “Heffalumps and Woozels,” the acid-doused song that comes up in the 1968 featurette Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. It precedes and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompa medleys by three years, and Templeton’s smorgasbord sequence from Charlotte’s Web by five. It’s still so weird.