The latest from Winnie-the-Pooh, Disneys new live-action film, “Christopher Robin,” is in theaters, so lets take a look at the silly old bear. Feel free to enjoy some honey while reading.
Alan Alexander Milne was a successful playwright and humor writer before he published childrens books, including the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, under the name A.A. Milne. During World War I, he served in the British Army and in 1916 was wounded in combat. He was recruited to write propaganda articles for military intelligence until the war was over. He also served in the British Home Guard during World War II.
Milne married in 1913 and his first child, Christopher Robin, was born in 1920. Most of the characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh series were based on toys given to his son.
Milne was a prolific writer and published seven novels and five nonfiction books. He also wrote many plays and screenplays in a career that spanned from 1917 to the 1950s. He met E.H. Shephard, who illustrated his most famous Pooh books, through the staff at Punch, a British weekly magazine.
Milne had a debilitating stroke in 1952 and died in 1956 at age 74.
The real Christopher Robin[hhmc]
His 1996 obituary in the British newspaper the Independent states that Christopher Robin was a platoon commander in World War II and was wounded in combat. After the war, he married his first cousin and was estranged from his parents for 30 years. He owned a bookstore and wrote five books. He sold his share of the royalties he inherited from the Pooh books to the Royal Literary Fund to set up a trust for his severely disabled daughter, Clare.
Acres of illustration[hhmc]
Last month, the original map of the Hundred Acre Wood was auctioned by Sothebys in London. The 10 1/2-inch-by-14-inch drawing by Earnest.H. Shephard was estimated to be worth about $100,000 and sold for more than $550,000.
Shephard was a successful illustrator and cartoonist before and during World War I. During the war, he was a decorated observation officer and used his artistic skills to map enemy positions on battlefields.
Shepard illustrated more than 60 books from 1924 to 1971 and died at age 96 in 1976.
Milne recognized Shepards contributions to the success of his series by giving him a share of the royalties.
E.H. Shephards map of the Hundred Acre Wood, courtesy of Sothebys
The characters A.A. Milne created have become huge earners for Disney. In 2002, Pooh made the Forbes list for top-earning fictional characters with $5.3 billion.
Winnie-the-Pooh is considered the first character to reap massive licensing rights. Literary agent Stephen Slesinger gained rights to sell Pooh products in the U.S. and Canada in 1930. He made a fortune selling lunch boxes and toys.
In 1961, Walt Disney bought the film and TV rights to the characters.
The right stuffed[hhmc]
Pooh Bear was originally named Edward Bear and was a gift to Christopher Robin on his first birthday, Aug. 21, 1921. The name Winnie-the-Pooh comes from a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg) that was kept at the London Zoo.
Milne traces the origin of the name Pooh in the introduction of his book “When We Were Very Young,” writing: “Christopher Robin, who feeds this swan in the mornings, has given him the name of Pooh. This is a very fine name for a swan, because, if you call him and he doesnt come (which is a thing swans are good at), then you can pretend that you were just saying Pooh! to show him how little you wanted him.”
Christopher Robins Pooh Bear, courtesy of The New York Public Library
The illustrations of Pooh Bear were not based on the actual Pooh Bear that Christopher Robin was given, but on a teddy bear named Growler that belonged to illustrator Shepards son. Growler may have been torn apart by a family dog.
The stuffed animals that started it all are on display at the New York Public Library. They range in height from 25 inches (Eeyore) to 4 1/2 inches (Piglet).