August 18, 1997 12:00 PM

>Winnie the Pooh


STOCKS MAY BE REACHING RECORD highs, but Disney is betting on a bear market—a Pooh bear, that is. With the new direct-to-video release Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin ($24.99), the bruin of very little brainpower is starring in his first-ever feature. Eeyore, Piglet and Tigger, whose cartoon shorts were combined for the big screen in 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, have returned with a few ’90s touches. Pooh, sounding as if he has been watching Oprah, tells his pals, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” Most of the original voices are back, although erstwhile Pooh Sterling Holloway, who died in 1992, has been replaced by Jim Cummings, who does Winnie’s voice on ABC’s The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

This Pooh production is part of a grander scheme. Direct-to-video has become a House of Mouse cash cow. Though obviously not up to the originals in terms of animation and music, the Aladdin video sequels, The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves, sold more than 8 million copies each. In the works: video sequels to Pocahontas, The Lion King and Toy Story. The strategy isn’t limited to animation. Disney’s first live-action video, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, sold 3 million copies this year. And that’s just the beginning. Says Tania Moloney, of Disney’s video arm: “We intend to keep the pipeline very full.”

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