The year was 1968. Walt Disney Studios was in a bit of a funk when it came to the category that they had dominated over 30 years ago. Between 1954 and 1967, they received eight nominations in the Best Animated Short category, but Disney could do nothing but watch as films from other studios and later independent studios took home the Oscar. They had not won since Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom won in 1953. They hadn't even been nominated since A Symposium of Popular Songs in 1962. And it had been two years since Disney himself had died from complications of lung cancer in 1966. Yet before he died he oversaw productions of three final projects: The Jungle Book, The Happiest Millionaire, and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. The latter was the second film based off of A.A. Milne's classic Winnie the Pooh series, following Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree in 1966. Blustery Day saw the introduction of the energetic Tigger, and the re-introduction of Pooh's very best friend Piglet. It also featured a half dozen wonderful songs from Richard and Robert Sherman. And when the Academy Awards came around in early 1969, Blustery Day beat out a NFB film, a Murakami-Wolf film, and a Hubley film for the Oscar. Disney was credited posthumously with the win for being the executive producer. It was his 22nd Oscar win, a record which may never be broken, and his final one.
It'll be a few months before I review the Oscar nominated films from 1968, but needless to say, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was an indelible part of my childhood. It was one of the cartoons I watched countless times growing up, and even today I can still recite most of the lines. Of course, I'm sure it was watched by millions of children worldwide. I still believe that if Blustery Day wasn't as successful as it turned out to be, then the Pooh franchise would have eventually puttered out.
But as it is, Winnie the Pooh and all of his friends have become iconic around the world. My sister is a big fan of jigsaw puzzles, and one day recently she was looking for more puzzles to buy. One days she showed me a puzzle that I found very compelling: a Japanese puzzle based off of none other than Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. There was no mistaking it. The art on a puzzle was a collage made up of a baker's dozen pictures that strongly resembled scenes from Blustery Day. (Plus an unrelated picture of Piglet and Pooh holding hands, although I guess one can argue that Blustery Day brought Piglet back into the fold, allowing such a beautiful friendship to blossom.) I told my sister that she had to get it. And when she bought it, I told her that she should bring to our parents' house, when both of us were visiting. So she did. I thought that I'd just watch her build it, but when she told me she was just staying three days, I realized that if I wanted to see the puzzle finished, I'd have to do it myself.
I was never very good at jigsaw puzzles. I don't have the patience to figure out all of the artistic details and to sort out the pieces. I've never finished a 1,000-piece puzzle. Well, I guess all that was about to change. For three days my youngest sister and I pored over the pieces trying to get the puzzle complete. It helped that the art was a collage so that made sorting pieces a bit easier, but we still ended up spending over ten hours over the three days on it. Meanwhile to get us into the mood, I had Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day on repeat as we worked on the puzzle. We watched it 12 times before we finished the puzzle, and that didn't include the four hours that we spent without the film playing in the background. But, we finally finished.
I guess all in all it wasn't a very difficult puzzle. My sister can probably get through it in half the time that it took my youngest sister and me. But my technique was terrible. I chose to build the pieces as I took them from the box rather than sorting the pieces and building from there. Still, the point is that it's the first puzzle I found based off an Oscar-winning animated short film. Of course, now that I've done a more in depth search, there are others. I found some jigsaw puzzles on The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, but I know my sister wouldn't go for them. After all, she hates Wallace with a passion. And I did find a nifty 300-piece puzzle based on Three Little Pigs. Still, you never forget your first one...
Some close-up look at the puzzle:
And screencaps from the original short that inspired the puzzle (screenshots taken from the 1993 video release)