Retro Recaps: The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Find Her, Keep Her
During the 1980’s, when Walt Disney Television Animation was beginning their rise to popularity, their parent company tried to find numerous ways to recycle some of the studio’s characters, into newer properties.
Carl Barks’ adventuresome Scrooge McDuck character, would be translated into the TV entity known as Ducktales. Chip and Dale would find a new group of friends, and become adventuresome detectives, in Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.
For a younger set, that bear of very little brain, Winnie the Pooh, would entertain the Saturday Morning Cartoon circuit, with The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, starting in 1988.
This series would expand the world of The Hundred Acre Wood, both in scope and character, beyond what had been written by Pooh’s creator, A.A. Milne.
Having a sister born right around the time of the show’s premiere, I often have fond memories of watching the series with my siblings. Even when episodes came up in reruns, we’d often stop and watch them (as well as had the 10 volumes released on VHS back in the day).
Of all the episodes I watched, there was one that definitely stood out. And that, was Find Her, Keep Her.
In the middle of a blustery winter storm, Rabbit, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger, are huddled around a carrot still in the ground, near Rabbit’s treehouse. Rabbit is trying to keep the carrot bundled up from the fierce cold. Suddenly, a tiny voice can be heard in the wind, crying out for help!
The group soon finds the source of the cries: a small baby bird has been blown out of its nest in the storm, and is clinging desperately to a branch high up in a tree!
The sight causes Rabbit to panic, and he rushes to get a ladder to help the little bird. However, as he attempts to enter his house, the strong wind blows the front door off its hinges, with Rabbit clinging to it! The wind blows the door back towards the others, who are then scooped up by it!
However, as it flies through the air the little bird loses her grip on the branch, and flies right towards them, with Rabbit managing to catch her in Pooh’s honey pot.
The group then crashes right into Rabbit’s home, wherein he loses his temper that now his house is a mess. The little bird apologizes for causing the mess, though Piglet manages to assure her it wasn’t her fault.
It turns out the little bird is named Kessie, and she reveals this by speaking in the third person (“Kessie alright.” “Kessie sorry.”).
When Pooh volunteers to take care of her along with Piglet and Tigger, Rabbit scoffs, claiming they “can’t even take care of a carrot!” Rabbit then says he will take care of the little bird, claiming she’ll be “no trouble at all.”
Needless to say, the first days of Rabbit’s caring for Kessie are a standard ‘stressed parent’ scenario. However, it is during this time that the little bird creates a nickname for him, calling him “Rabby.” Rabbit tries to get her to call him “Rabbit,” but she seems incapable of doing so.
Shortly afterwards, Pooh and Piglet stop by, and Rabbit asks them to give the little bird a bath, while he goes to tend to his garden, in preparation for the upcoming Springtime, slamming the door on his way out.
During the bath, Piglet asks Pooh why Rabbit seems so grumpy around Kessie.
“Well, perhaps he’s just not as fond of her as we are, Piglet,” reasons Pooh.
Of course, the bubble bath gets out of control, and an explosion of soap and suds soon permeates the treehouse, with Kessie happily floating away in a soap bubble.
Rabbit sees this and gives chase, eventually plummeting off a cliff into a pile of snow. Luckily, Kessie floats down, happy about her flight. It is then that Rabbit makes her promise not to fly so high, ever again.
“But, but I like it,” she pleads.
“And I like you,” says Rabbit, quietly. “And I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Needless to say, the tone of his voice makes the little bird promise.
Time passes, and Spring finally comes around. During this time, Kessie has grown from a baby into a young bird, and has come to help ‘Rabby’ around his garden. As they tend to the crops, Rabbit finds a carrot in a flower pot. Kessie then claims that it was the first carrot she ever planted, and she placed it in this pot specially for him.
Shortly after this, Tigger shows up, and requests to take Kessie on a little romp through the forest. Naturally, Rabbit doesn’t want Kessie associating with someone like Tigger, claiming she’s helping him tend his garden. In his usual awkwards-thinking, Tigger then starts trying to ‘help’ unweed the garden, but ends up pulling up multiple carrots. Naturally, this extra busy-work leads Rabbit to grouchily clean up the mess, and reluctantly let Tigger take care of Kessie.
When the two come across a large tree, Tigger claims he can bounce to the top, only for the tree (near the edge of a precipice), to fall over, dangling both Tigger and Kessie from the tree. Kessie’s cries for “Help!” reach Rabbit’s ears, and he attempts to save the two, but the tree is balanced so precariously, that anymore weight will send it tumbling over.
Rabbit then asks Tigger to swing his tail, and toss Kessie up. It looks like this will work, but Rabbit loses his grip on Kessie’s wing, and she falls over the edge.
However, salvation comes in the form of Owl, who manages to save the little bird. Kessie claims that she loved the sensation of flight, and wants Owl to teach her more.
“It shall be my pleasure my dear,” says Owl. “A little practice, and you’ll be able to fly south for the winter!”
Needless to say, Rabbit claims that he doesn’t want Owl teaching Kessie anything. When Rabbit reminds Kessie about the promise she made about “not going too high,” she claims she understands, and he promises they’ll have “lots more fun than flying.”
After this scene, Rabbit seems happy to still have the little bird in his life, but Kessie can often be seen dejectedly looking out her bedroom window, staring up at the sky.
Time passes, and Fall is soon upon the Hundred Acre Wood. As Kessie walks through the forest, she sees a flock of birds flying overhead.
Seeing noone around, she climbs up a nearby tree, and attempts to fly, but her attempts fail. It is during one of these attempts, that Pooh ends up catching her!
Even though Rabbit told Owl not to teach Kessie to fly, Pooh decides that he, Piglet, and Tigger can try and teach her.
They attempt to use a large band of rubber to launch her over a cliff, but are interrupted when Rabbit finds out what they are doing.
After chastising the others, Rabbit turns his attention to Kessie, his voice sounding hurt when he reminds her about her promise to him.
“But Rabby,” she pleads. “I just have to fly. It, it means everything to me.”
“…does it mean more than I do?” asks Rabbit, quietly.
The moment is interjected when Tigger tries to get a word in, and Rabbit demands he let go of the rubber band…into whose trajectory Rabbit has walked into, sending him over the edge of the nearby cliff!
At the sight of this, Kessie actually takes flight, and saves Rabbit! The others cheer over her newfound talent, as Kessie claims that now she can fly south!
“Oh boy, kiddo!” Tigger happily proclaims. “There’s nothing holding you down now!”
“Don’t you think I know?” says Rabbit.
The words cause the group to quiet, as they watch Rabbit slowly walk away, his ears drooped down.
Later that evening, Kessie finds Rabbit by his fireplace.. When she asks him to read her “one last bedtime story,” he sadly gets up and goes to his room.
“You don’t need me to read you a bedtime story,” he says. “…you don’t need me, for anything.”
The scene ends with Kessie sitting in a small rocking chair by the fireplace. She begins to sob, as the scene cuts to Rabbit in his bedroom, holding the stuffed rabbit he gave Kessie when she first came into his life.
As Kessie’s crying echoes across the scene, snow falls outside, soon blanketing the Hundred Acre Wood…a sure sign that winter is coming.
The next day, the others are ready to see Kessie off, but she claims she can’t leave without saying goodbye to “Rabby.” However, the others claim he must just be “busy” with his garden, and Kessie asks Pooh to tell Rabbit that she’ll never forget him.
As she takes flight, Rabbit’s voice can be heard, and we see why he wasn’t there: he had been looking for Kessie’s first carrot, and wanted to give it to her as a present!
Rabbit rushes past the others, and to the edge of the precipice where his little birdie has taken off.
“Kessie! Don’t Go!” Rabbit callsout. “I’ve changed my mind! You can fly! Just…don’t…go away…Kessie.”
His words trail off as he can’t see her in the sky. Sadly, he drops the carrot, and trudges back down the hill, resting on a small rock.
Suddenly, giggling can be heard, and the ‘first carrot’ drops from the sky, before Kessie flies into rabbit, ‘tackling’ him into a hug.
“Did you think I would leave, without saying goodbye to you?” she asks.
The scene then cuts away to sunset, later that day. Pooh and Piglet are sitting under a tree, with Pooh hoping that an early Spring might mean Kessie will return sooner.
“It’s the most peculiar thing,” wonders Piglet. “For the longest time, I thought rabbit didn’t like her.”
“You know, Piglet,” replies Pooh (exhibiting some wisdom for a ‘bear of very little brain’), “Sometimes people care too much. I think it’s called Love.”
Piglet ponders this for a little bit, before wondering if they should tell Rabbit.
“Don’t worry,” says Pooh. “I believe he already knows.”
The camera then moves to a nearby tree, where we see Rabbit staring off into the sky, Kessie’s first carrot sitting in a pot, nearby.
And that was “Find Her, Keep Her.”
With over 50 episodes produced, many of them often dealt with fun or comedic topics. Even so, this episode is often cited by many as being rather ‘deep.’
In a way, it’s almost a precursor to the parent-child connection storytelling, that PIXAR would use in its Toy Story films.
Rabbit has often been one of the more excitable characters in the series, and oftentimes, the one who demands logic or order. In that way, it makes the most sense that he would be the one character that would take seriously, the responsibility of taking care of Kessie.
Rabbit’s role in The New Adventures, would also delve into some more emotional topics, like feeling under-appreciated, in the episode A Friend in Deed, and How Much is That Rabbit in the Window?
Kessie would be one of quite a few new characters introduced in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There was also a devious Heffalump and Woozel duo, a family of Heffalumps that the group befriended, as well as an expansion of unseen-yet-voiced human characters that Christopher Robin would interact with.
Yet out of all these characters, Kessie would be the one that somehow ended up getting the most mileage beyond the series.
In Season 3 of the series, Kessie returned to the Hundred Acre Wood. Though unlike in Find Her Keep Her, Kessie appeared to have grown up during her time away. This included now calling Rabbit by his official name, claiming she was too old now to call him “Rabby.”
This episode, titled A Bird in the Hand, also dealt with a familial topic: in this case, Rabbit not quite realizing that Kessie is not the little bird she once was, and can take care of herself. I think anyone whose had a parent be a tad overbearing, can relate.
In 1998, a direct-to-video special titled Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving, would create a Christmas special, that revolved around using several episodes from the The Adventures series, including Kessie’s introduction. This tied into a subplot in Seasons, wherein Kessie sent Rabbit a letter that she would be coming to visit him for Christmas.
Like some specials made after a series has ended, it wreaks havoc with having a logical timeline. Kessie is not the adult version we saw in A Bird in the Hand, so one assumes that in the special, Kessie somehow visited Rabbit a few months after she set off to fly South for the winter…which, kind of defeats the purpose of her going away?
Though Kessie’s most surprising return role, was in 2001. A new Pooh-based show was developed for The Disney Channel in 2001, titled The Book of Pooh. Here, the characters were realized as moving puppets, with the show’s content aimed at a younger demographic.
The Disney-created character of Gopher, was nowhere to be seen in The Book of Pooh, but unofficially, Kessie became a regular member of the group! I’m sure plenty of people who had never seen The New Adventures, wondered just where she came from.
Once The Book of Pooh ended in 2003, Kessie’s career much ended. One has to wonder if the little bluebird might return someday?…only time, will tell.