I adore Winnie the Pooh. You may have gleaned that from my Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh reviews that I have some high standards regarding the tubby little cubby. I do, I suppose. Like “Star Wars fan” high? Nonsense! I just hold this franchise near and dear to my heart, the characters are like family to me, I know the original films line for line, I love doing the rides at the parks, I openly resent certain decisions made about them in recent years, and I blog about it as a means to cope with my impotent frustrations in a vacuum because my love for this franchise just means that much to me!
Yeah, I don’t see the comparison.
Anyway, Pooh Bear has been a part of the Disney canon since 1966 and remains a greatly beloved part of it. And since the earliest of Christopher’s childhood days, music has played an integral part of Pooh’s legacy, thanks largely to Walt’s boys, the Sherman Brothers.
Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman came into the studio in 1958, and their first song was “Tall Paul” for Annette Funicello. Before long, the pair began writing songs for bigger, more renowned projects like The Sword in the Stone, The Absent-Minded Professor, The Happiest Millionaire, The Jungle Book, The Parent Trap, The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, It’s a Small World, and Mary Poppins. Their legacy is so enduring that Richard has even contributed for productions of Saving Mr. Banks (2013), The Jungle Book (2016) and Christopher Robin (2018), well after the passing of his older brother in 2012.
Like Alice in Wonderland, while the Pooh franchise is certainly musical, it’s not necessarily known for its music. So to honor the best music after fifty-plus years with Disney, let’s take a look at some of the bounciest, trounciest, flounciest, pounciest ditties this side of the Ashdown forest!
10. So Long (Winnie the Pooh, 2011)
If you read my review of Winnie the Pooh (2011), you might have gleaned that I was not a fan of it, least of all the music, written by the immensely talented Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who gave the world everyone’s favorite/least favorite Norwegian Disney movie soundtrack. But before Letting Go and braving Into the Unknown, they were tasked to follow in the footsteps of the Sherman Brothers and write a soundtrack worthy of a theatrically-released Winnie the Pooh film. I still don’t care for most of the songs, but if I had to pick my favorite, it’d probably be this one, sung over the end credits.
Sung by Zooey Deschanel, “So Long” is a chipper, upbeat way of saying goodbye, a sentiment best known for the sense of forlorn it imparts. But instead of focusing on the loneliness, it instead reiterates why farewell can be a blessing in disguise. After all, feeling sad about parting ways only means you had such a good friend worth saying goodbye to. I even like the cheeky lead-in to the chorus where Zooey invites the other to “bother me a little bit longer”, as though begging for an excuse to stick around.
Another reason I find this song so much better than the other ones on the soundtrack is because it’s arguably the only one where Zooey sounds like she’s putting any sort of effort into it. In the title track, her vocals wane in and out like she’s struggling to stay awake, and “A Very Important Thing to Do” is barely worth mentioning. But here, she actually puts forth an enthusiastic tone that feels fun and engaging.
9. Up, Down, and Touch the Ground (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, 1966)
If you’re anything like me, you’re not a fan of exercising. But when I do try to do a few warmups to flaccidly convince myself that raising and lowering my arms totally counts, I tend to do it in a rhythm similar to one of those novelty dipping birds. Luckily, “Up, Down, and Touch the Ground” is perfectly in sync with that very tempo.
While we humans exercise to lose weight and get physically fit, Pooh does his “stoutness exercises” strictly to build up his appetite. Pooh is the very definition of body positivity, as he regales in being “short, fat, and proud of that”. What’s not to love about that?
8. ‘Round my Family Tree (The Tigger Movie, 2000)
Songs in movie musicals are meant, first and foremost, to keep the story moving forward. Second is to allow the character(s) to express their emotions. A song that does neither is considered a fate worse than death. However, the caveat to that is if the song is so entertaining we forget about those other two, you might still be able to pull it off. In animation, a special asset is being able to draw literally anything, and this has allowed numerous insanely imaginative musical sequences: “Pink Elephants on Parade”, “Be Our Guest”, “Under the Sea”, and “Friend Like Me” certainly come to mind. And then there’s this one, and it definitely succeeds.
When Tigger gets a letter from his family, he is so ecstatic about a massive family of Tiggers he rattles off a stream-of-consciousness song about all the different family branches, their shapes and sizes, his family history, their careers and hobbies, and more. It’s exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from the addle-brained but otherwise wildly imaginative Tigger, never once thinking anything about anyone in his family might be anything other than extraordinary.
Pooh and his friends, canonically, have no knowledge of the world beyond the Hundred Acre Wood, much less pop culture, but to compliment Tigger’s exuberance, numerous references pepper the sequence. Like a forties’ Goofy cartoon, everyone’s a Tigger, parodying or homaging the Country Bear Jamboree, the Brady Bunch, the Jackson 5, Jerry Springer, Marilyn Monroe, Goldiggers of Broadway, even Don Quixote. They’re unique and clever touches which make for great gems for adults as they watch this with their kids.
Overall, you have to love Tigger’s blind and zealous enthusiasm over the the idea of meeting hundreds of fellow Tiggers.
7. Hip Hip Pooh-Ray (Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, 1968)
One thing I truly love about the world of Pooh is their way of making the simplest acts of kindness and viewing them as causes for unfettered joy. Rabbit coming over to visit is just as much a treat as is finding the perfect stick for Poohsticks. And literally anything can be cause for celebration.
When Piglet is caught in a flood and begs for help, Owl does absolutely nothing, and Pooh goes through the rapids and over the waterfall alongside Piglet. Still, Christopher Robin credits Pooh for rescuing Piglet, and a party is held. When Eeyore interrupts and declares he has found Owl’s new home, he’s unaware it already belongs to Piglet. But instead of correcting him, Piglet, heartbroken, relents, and Pooh unselfishly asserts that he live with him. Because of this, the party is turned from a one-hero party to a two-hero party, and we get this fun mid-tempo march.
There’s almost no substance to the lyrics, but they sing about Pooh and Piglet’s heroic deeds. The rhythm is mellow, but solid. They’re just so proud of these two friends in their acts of selflessness that it warrants a parade and tossing them up in the air with a blanket. There’s just something so pure about that.
6. The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers (Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, 1968)
I’ve always loved Tigger, especially when I was a kid. Easily excitable, playful, devil-may-care, friendly…these were qualities I felt I exuded and related to. Especially for a guy who had his own theme song.
Now, what’s funny is this song isn’t just nine stanzas long; it actually has a similar second verse and a truncated third that loops back into one or the other verse:
“The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful chaps!
They’re loaded with vim and with vigor,
They love to leap in your laps!
They’re jumpy, bumpy, clumpy, thumpy,
Fun fun fun fun fun FUN!
But the most wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is I’m the only one!”
“Tiggers are cuddly fellas!
Tiggers are awfully sweet!
Ev’ryone elses is jealous,
And that’s why I repeat…”
To my knowledge, this full version has only popped up twice: as the intro to The Tigger Movie, and on the DVD Sing a Song with Tigger, where the order of the second and third verse are flipped.
So why do I prefer the original, truncated version, given my preference for full versions? Well, a big part is my love for Paul Winchell’s voice for the character. I love the gravelly, booming robustness to it, that a larger-than-life goofball just had so much explosive, kinetic energy behind it. It got weaker over the years, but the original voice he flexed in the 60’s and 70’s was, in my opinion, the best. That said, I think he sang the Sing a Song with Tigger version, but it’s kind of hard to tell, though it’s clearly Jim Cummings doing the introduction.
Speaking of which, what about Jim? Oh, don’t get me wrong: I love the guy. In fact I love how he plays the role. He nails the nuances of Tigger’s personality, right down to his affinity for using made-up words. But the voice itself…sounds so strained and lacks the intensity I think this song benefits from.
Also, I gotta love that…what is that, a mouth harp? That deliciously twangy sound in the OG version? Like Winchell’s performance, it’s overkill, but it’s a fun, exuberant element that emphasizes the silliness of the character.
5. Rumbly in my Tumbly (Disney Sing-Along: Disneyland Fun, 1990)
I talked about this song before in my retrospective of the Sing-Along, and as much as I love the sweet tones of Sterling Holloway, I had to give it up for this extended version with a funnier premise.
I love those anticipatory moments when I’m about to eat and quell my empty stomach. This song is perfectly singable and hummable as you’re zeroing in on getting something yummy to snack on. It’s almost like a benign, humorous version of the Jaws theme.
Watching Pooh Bear prowl around Disneyland, repeatedly missing out on opportunities for food (Even though Tigger TOTALLY could’ve refilled his $1.25 worth of popcorn he spilled!) is cute, certainly much cuter than the B-plot in the 2011 movie. At least here Pooh isn’t forced to starve for over a hour.
4. Heffalumps and Woozles (Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, 1968)
One thing that’s always bugged me about Heffalumps and Woozles is, according to the 1968 short, they didn’t exist. When Tigger scoffs at eating honey, claiming it’s not fit for these creatures, Pooh corrects him, saying “You mean elephants and weasels”. Tiger reiterated that was what he said, and that they steal honey. For a while, the most we’d ever seen of them is in this fun dream sequence, similar to Milne’s books:
Then New Adventures went ahead and broke that canon, and even more so in 2005 when Lumpy, a baby lavender heffalump, joined the ranks of Pooh’s friends. Confusing, right?
It’s unfair to compare this surreal, elephant-based musical nightmare sequence by Disney to another that came out 27 years prior. But regardless, it’s just as playful and threatening, with about a quarter of the intensity. The Sherman brothers truly cut their teeth on some silly, almost Seussian lyrics that clearly took advantage of the wildly imaginative creatures of Pooh’s nightmares. It’s the closest thing to a villain song in the entire franchise, and it’s just so fun to dance along to.
3. The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Theme (The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, 1988 – 1991)
Pooh has been on television for four different series, and I still think the best one by far is the second one, which didn’t need any gimmick to “improve” Pooh. It just needed the characters just going about their day and doing their thing.
Much like most other TV themes around this time, the theme is mostly “The characters are here and we’re ready for fun!”, but there’s definitely a laid-back quality to it. They imply lots of high adventure in the intro film clips, but the lyrics take a more understated approach.
There’s a great verse that lulls into a more dramatic aspect. “When you’re alone, and there’s nobody home/it’s nice to be able to count on a friend like Pooh Bear/Winnie the Pooh Bear!”. It’s a beautiful sentiment not often seen in these songs, and makes you realize, even as an adult, sometimes you need a stuffed bear to keep you company on those stormy nigh-
Yeah, just like that.
2. Winnie the Pooh (Piglet’s BIG Movie, 2002)
I grew up on the original four Pooh feature yes: Honey Tree, Blustery Day, Tigger Too, and A Day for Eeyore. All four, including the 1977 feature, have the introduction song, well-performed, as a gentle lullaby sort of song. It addresses the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood (Sans Tigger and Gopher), and the chorus is a fun, bouncy, and extremely recognizable dedication to Pooh Bear. Honestly, the string overture of this song is one of the most pleasant, serene scores in all of the Disney canon.
But the only thing that I wonder is…why is it sung by a chorus of baritone-voiced men? It’s not bad, and I grew up on this version, so I’m very used to it and find it endearing. But Richard Sherman himself has described “Winnie the Pooh” as a lullaby, so I wonder, why not apply a softer touch?
Enter Carly “You’re so Vain” Simon, with her maternal, smooth vocals and her acoustic guitar. There’s little else, and it strips away the unnecessary excess Pooh music rarely needed. It’s just Carly singing about our favorite friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. It’s just a perfect.
1. Your Heart will Lead You Home (The Tigger Movie, 2000)
Some people want to go to Gotham City and fight the Joker with Batman. Others want to ride with Scooby-Doo in the Mystery Machine and solve mysteries. Others want to swim with Ariel in Atlantica and…not wear pants, I think. There is no shortage of fictional worlds we would love to immerse ourselves into and be with our favorite characters. Disney alone has far too many to count, from Wonderland to Neverland, Tortuga to Agrabah, Toontown to Duckburg. But out of all the worlds I could choose to visit if I could, none are more appealing to me than the Hundred Acre Wood. A lush, bucolic landscape filled with friends who are the epitome of kindness and empathy. A place where the biggest troubles are rebuilding Eeyore’s house or freeing Pooh from whatever he lodged himself in. Where you can go on a picnic just as easily as you can go on a an expotition. Given modern life and all its strife, why wouldn’t I want to go there? This song encapsulates that nostalgic, harmonious time with a beautiful message about family, what The Tigger Movie was all about.
The Tigger Movie has arguably the sincerest heart out of most of the Pooh films, and this song helps that out big time. Kenny Loggins has pitch-perfect vocals that says everything about the song: nostalgia, but not one with regret or yearning, just a quiet fondness full of the love and joy you felt then. It’s essentially the embodiment of everything we love about Winnie the Pooh.
And as it’s the theme to The Tigger Movie, the song circles back to the love for family and how you experienced those days with them. Most importantly, as the chorus tells us, should the event come where you’re alone and lost, those same loved ones are the key to leading you back to where you belong. As a perfect mix of serene vocals, gentle and emotional lyrics, and sweet melody, this remains my most favorite Winnie the Pooh song of all time.
What are your favorite songs from Pooh and friends? What did I miss? Hit me up with your faves! Songs can be a subjective, after all…
You never can tell with songs.