Walt Disney Home Video (November 8, 1999), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (September 29, 2009), single disc, 63 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Rated G, Retail: $29.99
This is the tenth anniversary of the third Winnie the Pooh direct-to-video release, Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving. This would-be-classic originally came out in 1999 on video and has recently been repackaged in a tenth anniversary edition along with a collectible Christmas stocking. The show features a full-length adventure made up of three individual stories strung together with songs written by the Sherman Brothers (who wrote the music for the original Winnie the Pooh cartoons). It includes the popular A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving special from 1998, along with re-purposed episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, connected by new animation. The result is a charming Winnie the Pooh story about the holiday season.
The Sweatbox Review:
The adventure begins with the same storybook opening of the original shorts before a narrator begins telling the story of how Winnie the Pooh and his friends prepare for the Fall season. We even get a song (that plays between each of the three segments on this video) explaining that it is the season of giving. The narrator then jumps right in with the segment Groundpiglet Day, originally an episode from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This segment begins with Tigger getting excited for winter and the beginning of the snow season. He is looking forward to winter games, and goes to Rabbit’s house along with Piglet and Pooh to find out when winter is supposed to start. When they walk into Rabbit’s house, a gust of wind rips the calendar pages from Rabbit’s wall calendar moving the date to Groundhog Day in February. Realizing that winter is actually ending, they decide to find a Groundhog to tell them if spring is arriving. In the absence of a Groundhog, they try to convince Gopher to take his place before eventually settling on Piglet. When Piglet comes out of a hole, he does not see his own shadow so everyone begins to prepare for spring. The next day, when spring doesn’t arrive, a blanket of snow falls over the Hundred Acre Woods. Piglet then goes in search of a real Groundhog to predict when Winter is supposed to end.
After realizing that it is in fact November in their previous segment, the gang gets ready for Thanksgiving. This segment is made up of the 1998 special A Winnie the Pooh Thanksgiving, which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in 1999. In this segment, Rabbit is organizing Thanksgiving Feast for the citizens of the Hundred Acre Woods (Owl, Piglet, Pooh, Gopher, Eeyore, and Tigger seem to be the guests). He divides the tasks between his friends. Owl is in charge of the dinnerware, Gopher of the Pumpkin Pie, Rabbit of the decorations, and Tigger and Eeyore of the Cranberry sauce. Pooh and Piglet, who have never seen a turkey in their life, are in charge of going out in search of the elusive bird. They make a trap to capture the turkey and use cranberries to lure the bird into it. However, instead of capturing a turkey, they accidentally capture Tigger and Eeyore instead. Thanksgiving then seems to be ruined for Rabbit until Pooh reminds him of what Thanksgiving is actually about – sharing what you have with family and friends.
The final segment of the video is Find Her, Keep Her, another episode from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Before it officially begins, however, we get new animation of the friends (now including Kanga and Roo who were missing in the previous episode) setting up for Christmas. They are interrupted by a Christmas card that arrives for Rabbit from and old friend named Kessie (she would later become a regular in The Book of Pooh series). Rabbit then settles down to tell the story of how they first met and became friends. This is when the story jumps to the Find Her, Keep Her episode. With the coming of winter, everyone is getting ready, but when a baby bird named Kessie falls from her nest, Rabbit takes her in and raises her. Over the course of the year, Rabbit becomes overprotective of his young ward and makes her promise not to attempt flying, out of fear that she might get hurt. Eventually everyone but Rabbit seems to realize that the young bird needs to fly south for the winter. When he finally lets her go, they have a very heartfelt moment together before she flies away. After the episode ends, we go back to the new animation segment as the friends are putting up their Christmas tree together but are missing a star. This is when Kessie returns and puts a big star at the top of their tree.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The set contains two games/activities for children. The first one is called “Decorate Your Own Christmas Tree.” In this activity, you get to select one of three different trees to decorate. For each tree, one can select a type of streamer, something to hang on the tree, and a star to go on top of the tree. The second activity is “Coloring With Piglet.” In this activity, one takes turns with Piglet coloring in one of three pictures depicting winter holiday activities. The goal is to select the correct color of the highlighted part of the picture using one of five available colors. The activities are fairly simple and I can’t imagine children being distracted for more than a minute in each activity. The coloring activity is not one of my favorites since I have always disliked forcing a child to select the “correct” color for a certain picture (why can’t Piglet’s jacket be blue?).
The second group of bonus features in this release is made up of two winter-themed New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episodes – The Magic Earmuffs and The Wishing Bear. These two episodes are from the first season of the show. In The Magic Earmuffs (11:09), Christopher Robin gives Piglet “magic earmuffs” to boost his confidence when he is ice skating. This episode was actually also included in the video release of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too. In The Wishing Bear (22:42), Pooh learns about wishing upon a star and attempts to make all his friend’s wishes come true. They are both cute episodes and I’m glad that they’ve been included here. It’s always fun to get more episodes of the classic show on DVD (at least until Disney releases the full show on DVD in a complete set – one can wish!). The Wishing Bear even comes complete with the opening theme of the show and end credits.
Surprisingly, there are no trailers featured on this set.
Just in time for the holidays, Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving is being released in a DVD & Stocking Gift Set. A white DVD keepcase is packaged together with a six-inch collectible stocking. The stocking comes in a plastic bag and everything is wrapped up with a cardboard slipcase complete with “To” and “From” lines ready for holiday gift-giving. The cover of the DVD, slipcase, and the stocking feature Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet with Kessie in the middle. Disney Movie Reward reminders are on the cover, the slipcase, and it all comes with an insert inside the case containing the code.
Ink And Paint:
The quality of the animation varies in this disc from segment to segment. The two New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh segments are now over 20 years old and show their age with some grain on the print. However, the whole show had a storybook quality to it when it premiered back in 1988 and the animation is still beautiful today. The two episodes in the main feature (Find Her, Keep Her and Groundpiglet Day) are both from the show’s very first season so the print is showing some of its age. The only reason this is noticeable is because of the CGI animation of the opening segment in Christopher Robin’s playroom and the modern animation that ties the Find Her, Keep Her segment to the rest of the story. This new animation is clean and mostly clear of any wear and tear. The show is featured in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Disney has produced this DVD with its standard FastPlay feature that will play the main feature when the disc is inserted.
There are five original songs featured in this disc, many of them alterations of one main tune talking about how it is the season of giving. This song plays between each segment or whenever the season seem to change and is animated with storybook pages and old clips from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh show as well as animation from the original cartoons. These songs were written by the Sherman Brothers and are appropriate for the release. Kids will have fun singing along to the songs, although none of them are particularly memorable. The release is featured with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track along with both Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. English, Spanish, and French subtitles are also available.
Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving is a good film to show kids around the holiday season. The collectible stocking is really only a small added bonus. Children will probably be entertained by the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends featured in the main story. Piglet, Tigger, and Rabbit all have prominent roles in these stories and they are fun to watch. The way the stories connect is a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure kids won’t care. The songs aren’t that memorable, but they at least fit in with the style of songs already existing in the Pooh universe (thank you Sherman Brothers). What really makes this set worth it is the amount of content. Aside from the one hour main feature, there is another half hour worth of bonus episodes on the disc. The rest of the bonus features are forgettable, but it is always a plus when you get a full New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode. Overall, this would make a good stocking stuffer for kids this Christmas, and perhaps a perennial holiday favorite.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?