Los Angeles Times

It's a Pooh World After All

Friday, June 4, 1999

"9" vspace="5" alt="The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh">

(c) Walt Disney Co.

Winne the Pooh, and Tigger too, now have a home at the Magic Kingdom.

The Hundred Acre Wood, a place in the hearts of millions of children and adults alike, is now a real place at the Magic Kingdom.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction invites park visitors on a bouncy journey through the Hundred Acre Wood and the notable stories of a silly old bear's career.

The hallmark of the ride may well be its cheering familiarity. It draws from the first three Winnie the Pooh animated short films: Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, made in 1966, 1968 and 1974, respectively.

The Pooh ride also pays tribute to the literary classic from which its tales were plucked.

At the ride's entrance, visitors are greeted by page upon giant page representing A.A. Milne's 1926 British storybook and its cuddly characters.

In a 31/2-minute ride in fiberglass ``Hunny'' Pots that seat four to six people, visitors first encounter a gush of wind and see the wee Piglet hanging onto a broomstick for dear life and Roo happily flying like a kite on his mother Kanga's scarf. Pooh, oblivious to it all, swings from a balloon on a quest for honey.

Riders move through a series of doors and gates and into seven scenes. The car bounces through a scene introducing Tigger, undulates through a flood, and zigs and zags through Pooh's kaleidoscope dream of honey-stealing Heffalumps and Woozles.

There's more range of motion on Winnie the Pooh than other so-called ``dark rides'' in Fantasyland. The technology helps immerse riders in the story, said project director Robert Coltrin.

``Tigger invites you to bounce, and we do,'' he said.

A dark ride in theme park lingo is simply one that puts you through a windowless building where lighting is controlled and often dim. But unlike Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which closed last year after 27 years to make room for Pooh, the Pooh ride is not dark in feeling.

Mr. Toad, though he had plenty of ardent fans, took his visitors on a journey into hell. Pooh delivers riders only through Tigger's nighttime appearance, Owl's heaving treehouse and the orange, yellow and bright blue hues of his whimsical Heffalump nightmare.

The ride winds up with a hero party and the ``Hip Hip Pooh-Ray'' song.

The Pooh films' music is, in fact, a dominating element of the ride, Coltrin said. The featured music includes ``The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers,'' ``Heffalumps and Woozles'' and ``The Rain, Rain, Rain Came Down, Down, Down.''

Disney songwriting legends Robert and Richard Sherman as well as composer Buddy Baker, who all worked on the original films, were back to write and orchestrate the soundtrack for the ride, Coltrin said.

Pooh and his friends have long been part of character greetings in the Magic Kingdom, but until now, they have never had their own attraction.

But since Disney took control of Pooh licensing in 1993 and made Pooh a merchandising phenomenon, momentum for the ride has been building.

Naturally, the Pooh ride will empty out into a Pooh store - called ``The Thotful Shop'' - where visitors can size up the ever-expanding array of Pooh toys and clothes.

``After all these years,'' Coltrin said, ``we finally have a home for Pooh in the Magic Kingdom where he belongs.''

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