For generations of fans, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood are a colorful group of animated friends that have starred in dozens of Disney films and television series’. But before their big screen debut, Pooh and his pals were the stars of a series of children’s books by English author A. A. Milne. And before that? They were the real-life playthings of Milne’s son, Christopher Robin.
Silly Old Bear
Image Credit: New York Public Library
That’s right. 95 years ago, there was a real boy named Christopher Robin whose favorite stuffed toys were a teddy bear, a kangaroo, a tiger, a pig, and a donkey. They were named Winnie-the-Pooh, Kanga, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore.
After all that time, Christopher Robin’s original toys are actually still around. They’ve been on display at the New York Public Library in Manhattan since 1987. Until very recently though, they were all looking a bit worse for wear.
After almost a century in existence, all five toys had suffered a number of injuries and were spotting a patchwork appearance due to multiple repairs. Library curators decided it was time to give old Pooh bear and his friends a makeover. So last year they set out to restore the stuffed animals to their original state as Christopher Robin might remember them.
‘Oh Bother’: Bringing Pooh, Tigger, and Pals Back to Life
This was no slapdash restoration attempt, however. The NYPL took the utmost care when they set out to work on the beloved dolls. Here’s how Michael Inman, the library’s curator of rare books, described the project:
“The New York Public Library takes the long-term preservation of these beloved dolls very seriously. Being ever mindful of their care and condition, and given recent advances in textile conservation techniques, we decided that the time was right to undertake restorative work on these treasures. As a result of the treatments they have received, the dolls have been not only cleaned, repaired, and stabilized — thereby ensuring their continued survival — but also returned to a state that is, in many ways, closer to how they appeared when they were in the possession of the Milne family.”
As a part of the restoration, each toy had numerous odd-colored patches removed. They were then replaced with material that closely matched the color and design of the original. Holes were carefully stitched and worn areas were covered in protective nylon netting. Winnie-the-Pooh himself had several areas meticulously steamed and fluffed.
Happy Birthday, Winnie-the-Pooh
It was on August 21, 1921 that Christopher Robin received the original Winnie-the-Pooh from the famed Harrods department store. So it was fitting that the newly restored dolls made their debut just in time for Pooh’s 95th birthday.
The first story in Milne’s collection was 1926’s appropriately-titled Winnie-the-Pooh. It was followed in 1928 by The House at Pooh Corner and many other stories and books. Most fans, however, are more familiar with the Disney versions of the beloved characters, which came into existence when Milne’s widow sold their rights to the company in 1966.
If you’re looking to visit Winnie-the-Pooh and friends in person, you can find them on display at the NYPL’s Children Center inside the Stephen A. Schwarzman building.
Who’s your favorite Winnie-the-Pooh character? Are you excited to see the newly-restored original toys?