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By Phil Hall | June 25, 2004

The distance between the Hundred Acres Woods and the Mekong Delta was bridged in 1987 when Canadian filmmaker Todd Graham combined key scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 landmark “Apocalypse Now” with the Disney cartoons in the “Winnie the Pooh” series. The result was “Apocalypse Pooh,” a nine-minute mad masterpiece which recasts the Coppola epic with the most unlikely players imaginable.

“Apocalypse Pooh” takes the soundtrack of “Apocalypse Now” and grafts it into the Winnie the Pooh animation. Martin Sheen remains as the narrator, except his on-screen presence here is Winnie the Pooh, who opens the film doing exercises by his mirror while awaiting his mission through Indochina’s heart of darkness. In keeping with the spirit of the Coppola original, Pooh sails up the river in seach of Kurtz (albeit using a honey pot as a marine craft). Rather than indulge in water skiing, our Viet vet Pooh gets to air-ski while being pulled by a kite as the soundtrack blasts to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” (In case you here a strange gyrating noise, that’s A.A. Milne spinning in his grave.)

The characters from the Pooh cartoons are brilliantly matched up with the “Apocalypse Now” bunch. The most hilarious new casting is the neurotic Rabbit, now the machinist who “is wound too tight for the jungle.” The voice of Dennis Hopper’s raving photographer comes out of Piglet’s mouth, while Gopher unexpectedly emerges from his subterranean home to announce in Robert Duvall’s crisp macho tones about how much he loves the smell of napalm in the morning. What is truly amazing is how the voices from “Apocalypse Now” are perfectly matched to the lip movements of the animated characters. While this may be a one-joke film, it is one brilliant joke played to its fullest with skill and technical expertise.

If that is not enough, the “Apocalypse Now” jungle surprise of “Fuckin’ Tiger! Fuckin’ Tiger!” is matched with the bouncy arrival of Tigger. The idea of watching the jolly Tigger bounce away to the blood-curdling screams of “Fuckin’ Tiger!” is an experience that can never be duplicated.

As for the object of the search, “Apocalypse Pooh” reverses its technique and uses the original film for the scenes involving Col. Kurtz. Except now the voice of Marlon Brando is replaced with the gloomy donkey Eeyore. Thus, Brando’s haunting deathbed exclamation of “The horror! The horror!” is now Eeyore’s pessimistic mantra “Oh, bother! Oh, bother!” Considering the grief that Brando gave the “Apocalypse Now” production, it may have been more practical if they actually hired Eeyore for the role.

Nearly all of the films from the Bootleg Files series played in mainstream release at least once, either in theaters or on television. Even “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” had theatrical and festival playdates before it was forced off the market due to its unauthorized use of the Carpenters’ music. But “Apocalypse Pooh” is unique because it never had a real release. Since the filmmaker obviously violated copyright laws in splicing his source materials together, the film could never be given a genuine commercial presentation. This is one of the few underground cult movies whose reputation is based solely on the depth and scope of the bootleg video circuit.

So who is the genius responsible for this? Your guess is as good as mine. Information on Todd Graham is hard to come by. The Internet Movie Database has no listings for other films beyond this and it even lacks his full name (they call him “T. Graham”). There is a bootleg video floating around which has “Apocalypse Pooh” with two similar cartoon shorts (something called “Blue Peanuts,” which grafts David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” to scenes from a Charlie Brown cartoon, and a clip of the Archies performing the Sex Pistols music). I don’t know whether Graham was responsible for those efforts. I’ve been able to determine he made other shorts called “Phil’s Parents House” (1989) and “Abnormal Salvation” (1990), but I cannot find any details on those beyond their titles and it seems neither of those shorts are on video. If any reader has information about Todd Graham’s full movie output or his current whereabouts, please contact me care of Film Threat.

The chances of “Apocalypse Pooh” turning up on commercial home video or DVD are nonexistent (I can imagine Michael Eisner spitting up his guts if anyone dared to put this on a big screen). Strangely, this wacky short can be seen on iFilm, an unlikely source of screening bootleg titles (perhaps Disney and Coppola are unaware of its presence online).

Yet “Apocalypse Pooh” has been a fun and inventive presence in the bootleg world since 1987 and it shows no signs of being yanked away. With any luck, its popularity will continue to grow over the years and Todd Graham can be lured back to his editing room for a remastered and expanded “Apocalyse Pooh Redux”!


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.

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  1. Philip Kremer says:

    The video featuring Apocalypse Pooh, Blue Peanuts, and the Archies playing “God Save the Queen” used to be available at Suspect Video in Toronto. I searched Todd Graham Suspect Video on LinkedIn and found his profile: maybe you can contact him through LinkedIn.

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