It’s hard to believe, but everyone’s favorite cuddly bear, Winnie the Pooh, is turning 90 years old this year.
Now, of course, that doesn’t mean there has been 90 years worth of animated Pooh cartoons. Disney didn’t acquire the license for Pooh and his friends until 1966 — which still makes this an anniversary. That means it’s been 50 years since Winnie the Pooh first appeared on the big screen.
The 90 year anniversary refers to Winnie the Pooh’s creation by author A. A. Milne in the 1926 book, Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne based the characters on the stuffed animals owned by his son, the real-life Christopher Robin.
The Origins of Winnie-the-Pooh
Image Credit: Disney
Originally, there were five characters: Winnie-the-Pooh (the hyphens were dropped when Disney purchased the character), Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo. Christopher Milne’s Roo toy was lost years ago, but the remaining four stuffed animals are on display to this day at the New York Public Library. In fact, they recently received a facelift for Pooh’s 90th birthday.
A. A. Milne created two additional characters out of his own imagination: Rabbit and Owl. Disney later added Gopher to their animated adaptations. But now a new character is joining the Hundred Acre Wood.
A Newcomer to the Hundred Acre Wood
It is a new character, but like Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo, its origins lie in Christopher Milne’s original stuffed animals.
A new book, an official sequel to Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh stories, will be released next month for the 90th anniversary. Titled The Best Bear in All the World, the book will feature stories from four authors.
Writer Brian Sibley contributed the new story, Winter, which will introduce readers to Pooh’s new penguin friend. Sibley explains to the Telegraph how the character is not exactly an original creation:
“For someone who has loved Winnie-the-Pooh & Co from his earliest childhood, the idea of visiting the ‘100 Aker Wood’ in search of a new story was wildly exciting.
“However, having studied and written about the works of A. A. Milne, it was also daunting.
“But, for me, the challenge was more than just attempting to play A. A. Milne in his own literary game; I also wanted to find a way of successfully introducing a brand new character into Pooh’s world, whilst being sympathetic to the tone and style of the original books.
“While pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about, I remembered seeing a photograph of father and son playing on the nursery floor with Winnie-the-Pooh and – a penguin!
“The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood, so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner…”
An Original Character, Just Like His Friends
Like Pooh, Kanga, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, and Roo, it’s believed the penguin seen in the photograph was a gift from Christopher Milne’s mother, Daphne. She bought each of the popular stuffed animals at Britain’s famed Harrod’s department store.
The Best Bear in All the World will be released in hardcover on October 25, 2016 in the United States.