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Winnie the Pooh

at your friendly neighborhood theatre

By James K. Glassman

WHAT we remember of the fantasies of our childhood is what Walt Disney wanted us to remember. What millions of us know of Alice is what the fat guy in the gray suits and the slicked-back hair told us: "You can learn a lot of things from the flowers/Especially in the month of May." And Bambi and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney always managed to squeeze out all the incongruities, anything that he could not understand. Then, distilled, it would be fed into the machine that made Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and their gloves--and, behold, the result is a product, as nourishing as frozen corn.

Fantasy, anything that doesn't make sense to Walter Disney Productions Inc., was not allowed in these affairs. It was all made to fit the mold of soft, flowing shoulders, violins and ribbons, and words that would spill off the lips of fair maidens, For Disney, fantasy was the humanoid animal--the glorious moment 40 years ago when Mickey Mouse spoke.

I am deeply concerned about this: Mickey Mouse speaking, and walking on his hind legs. I am concerned because I have now seen Walt Disney make Edward Bear speak. Winnie the Pooh does not have a mouth. Once, I remember, Ernest Shepard drew a tongue, very tiny, searching for honey. But Winnie the Pooh does not have a mouth. If only he had spared us that--the scratchy whiny, loud voice.

In the Winnie the Pooh movie, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, fantasy is well-contained. The only time anything strange happens is when Pooh has a dream about heffalumps--but that is a dream, and Disney will tell us very clearly which are our dreams and which are our lives. Tigger looks like Tony the Tiger, and he sings a song called "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers." Christopher Robin is a boy with short blond hair. Piglet is very ugly, and Owl is not Owl or WOL or anything you know.

I will admit that what disturbs me about this movie, which is nothing more than a 30-minute cartoon (but others in the series are coming), is that I do not know these animals. And so maybe I am as guilty as Walt Disney, because they were never mine either. But I know how to leave them alone in the Hundred Acre Wood. What I don't like is this tampering. Trees can look at trees (I don't believe Walter Hickel)--we don't need roads to help people look at them.

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