If there’s one studio known for shoveling heaps of direct-to-video releases, it’s Disney. Surprisingly, some of their new DTV offerings haven’t been too bad. It’s just a pain that they keep attaching unnecessary sequels that no one wanted in the first place onto their recent Blu-ray offerings. You can’t just buy Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove, or Lilo & Stitch. You also get stuck with Mulan II, Kronk’s New Groove, L&S 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. They’ve also crammed both movies, along with their special features, on the same disc. Granted, this is the only way some of Disney’s lackluster sequels will ever get purchased, but it tends to take a toll on the video/audio.
Now we see the first home video release since VHS of 1991’s ABC special Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too! on Blu-ray for your holiday viewing pleasure. Unfortunately, it comes cramped within a 2002 television special that is far below the original short: Happy Pooh Year. Christmas Too is way better than the wraparound story that skips from Christmas to New Year’s and seems to take just as long to watch. In Happy Pooh Year, the Hundred Acre Wood friends are planning a New Year’s party. But to make sure we feel the Christmas spirit, Roo (voiced by Nikita Hopkins) gets told a story about Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) and Piglet (voiced by John Fiedler) making a Christmas past right after the group’s gift list gets lost. There’s also a slightly amusing subplot involving personality swapping to keep Rabbit (voiced by Ken Samson) from moving away.
Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year hits Blu-ray with some big bumps along the way from Disney’s quality control department. This isn’t the first time one of their new BDs has come out of the gate with such dismal quality. Even their live-action films have had some issues (see Arachnophobia and Newsies). While there are plenty of Disney films that don’t deserve their Diamond Edition overhauls, we still deserve better than this. Ironically, the Christmas Too! section of the film looks better than the Happy Pooh Year story. While nowhere near the disaster of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the film has still been subjected to some pretty heavy noise reduction. During Christmas Too there is a faint amount of film grain, but colors throughout the entire running time are muted and lack any kind of pop.
Pixelation, aliasing, ringing, and artifacting all creep in as well, and a few times it looks like the film is buffering, creating a stuttering effect to the animation about 37 minutes in. There are also some yellow and green scratches on the left side of the screen around the 11, 17, and 24-minute marks. You’ll also see plenty of smeared and blurry shots scattered throughout. It seems as though the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is the only thing left standing. As for the audio, it definitely sounds better than it looks which is surprising considering there’s no lossless audio. Presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital mix, music seems mixed pretty well throughout the speakers giving the film more audio depth than you’ll see in any second of the video presentation. There are also 2.0 French and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks along with English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The special features are pretty slight and make you suffer through the whole film again without simply just watching it. This is due to the “Disney Song Selection” feature where you can play the individual songs with optional on-screen lyrics. The songs included are “Winnie the Pooh,” “Trimming the Tree with Jingle Bells,” “Snow Snows,” “Jingle Bells in the Snow,” “Happy Pooh Year,” “Hunny, No Not For Me,” “One last round of Jingly Bells,” and “Auld Lang Syne.” You can also play the film with on-screen lyrics. “Enchanted Environment” is a 24-minute holiday themed screensaver that serves no purpose whatsoever. And finally, the inclusion of “Disney Intermission” that provides extremely kid-friendly games and activities whenever you pause the film. The special features are as lackluster as the film. The combo pack includes the Blu-ray version of the film, along with the DVD, and a downloadable digital copy.
Were it not for the inclusion of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too!, this would be a completely forgettable addition to the grossly expanding landfill of DTV Disney BDs. A Very Merry Pooh Year is exactly the kind of television special you’d expect it to be and the video presentation leaves far too much to be desired. The only reason to buy this would be to have Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too! at your disposal, or if your children will sit through anything that’s animated. Considering Christmas Too! has never been available outside of VHS makes this one worth adding to your collection, but don’t say you weren’t warned about the rest of the package.