Winnie the Pooh and the Big Screen

Icons come and icons go. Coca Cola survives, but Woolworth’s, the standard of the early 20th century, is now history. What’s popular today may not make the cut to the next generation – few kids today play with Cabbage Patch Dolls, despite the frenzied battles people had over them in the 1980’s, and all those people who sank thousands of dollars into Beanie Babies as investments now have … boxes of worthless stuffed toys.

Winnie the Pooh Endures

Winnie the Pooh is one of those who made the grade. A.A. Milne (Alan Alexander) wrote first a book of children’s poems (When We Were Very Young), then a Christmas story, and finally, in 1926, a book of stories, Winnie the Pooh, based on his son Christopher Robin and his stuffed bear Edward. A sequel, The House at Pooh Corner, followed in 1928, as well as two books of poems. Filled with charming innocence after the bloodbath of World War I, bumbling, slow-witted but kind-hearted Pooh and his friends (Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, and Kanga and Roo) hit a needy spot in a dejected population. By 1931, Winnie the Pooh was a $50-million business, the dream-deal of every author (and that was in the middle of a depression!).

Although Milne died of a stroke in 1956, Pooh continued to expand when the film rights, among others, were sold to Disney in 1961, and the first animated cartoon released in 1966, with Sterling Holloway’s voice becoming the standard for Pooh. Today, the marketing of Winnie the Pooh is worth as much as $6 billion dollars a year, the third most valuable franchise in the world, after Star Wars and Disney Princesses (both, not surprisingly, also Disney franchises, a company with more than 92 billion dollars in assets).

Two New Films

Within the last year, another expansion on the franchise has brought out two marvelous films not necessarily aimed at children but adults who once were children: Goodbye Christopher Robin, and Christopher Robin.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is a lovely, sweet story of Milne and his relationship to his son, and how the success of Winnie the Pooh destroyed the childhood of Christopher Robin himself. Pushed into the judgmental spotlight too young, Christopher Robin was beaten up in school because of his fame, and grew to resent his father, whom he described as very bad with children. Although eventually he reconciled with Winnie the Pooh, he never really reconciled with his parents; even on her death bed, his mother refused to see him. Goodbye Christopher Robin is a British production filled with beautiful settings and a superb performance by eight-year-old Will Tilston; it was released on DVD in January.

On August 3, Disney launched their Christopher Robin film (does someone leak news between studios? This type of inter-studio film wars has happened numerous times, most recently with Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman both released in 2012, and Disney’s 2016 Jungle Book with this October’s Warner Bros. coming release of Mowgli). In a plot fairly reminiscent of Hook (which was not a Disney creation), Christopher Robin is a grown-up who has lost his imagination, so enter CGI Pooh and friends to help him remember it. While the voices are so close to the cartoons you loved in the 60’s, somehow the CGI just doesn’t work as well. Kids will probably love it, grown-ups not so much, and not for lack of imagination.

Winnie the Pooh was voted an icon of England, but you can see the original Winnie and friends at their permanent home at the New York Public Library here in the United States (Roo was lost in an apple orchard in 1930).

As the real Pooh turns 100 in 2021, he’s showing no signs of losing his status as a bear loved around the world. Pooh has been translated into more than 46 languages, including Latin, Mongolian, and Esperanto. If you have no child to share Winnie the Pooh with, try these “adult” Pooh books:

Great Non-Fiction Reads of 2015

books

2015 was a banner year for great non-fiction publications.  But if you’re like most people, life probably got in the way of being able to read them all.  Highlighted below are some of the non-fiction books of 2015 that garnered extra positive attention.

hammer headHammer Head: the making of a carpenter – Nina MacLaughlin – Combining sage advice from Ovid and Mary Oliver with practical descriptions of tools and varieties of wood, the author, who quit her desk job to become a carpenter, shares her joys and frustrations of learning to make things by hand in an occupation that is 99% male.

thunder & lightningThunder & Lightning: weather past, present, future – Lauren Redniss – Focusing on the intricate nature of the world around us, as well as the personal relationship we all have to the weather, a National Book Award finalist and visionary writer—combining personal stories with history, interviews, scientific research and full-color photos—explores the transformative power of weather.

notorious rbgNotorious RBG: the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg– Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik – In a lively illustrated biography of the feminist icon and legal pioneer, readers can get to know the Supreme Court Justice and fierce Jewish grandmother, who has changed the world despite the struggle with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, standing as a testament to what a little chutzpah can do.

witchesWitches of America – ALex Mar – Examines paganism and the occult, from its roots in 1950s England to its current American mecca in the Bay Area, and from a gathering of more than a thousand witches in the Illinois woods to the New Orleans branch of one of the world’s most influential magical societies.

monopolistsThe Monopolists: obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world’s favorite board game – Mary Pilon – Tracing back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie, and presenting a remarkable social history of corporate greed, the inside story of the world’s most famous board game reveals how Monopoly came into existence.

great beanie babyThe Great Beanie Baby Bubble – Zac Bissonnette – In the annals of consumer crazes, nothing compares to Beanie Babies. With no advertising or big-box distribution, creator Ty Warner – an eccentric college dropout – become a billionaire in just three years. And it was all thanks to collectors. The end of the craze was just as swift and extremely devastating, with “rare” Beanie Babies deemed worthless as quickly as they’d once been deemed priceless. Bissonnette draws on hundreds of interviews (including a visit to a man who lives with his 40,000 Ty products and an in-prison interview with a guy who killed a coworker over a Beanie Baby debt) for the first book on the most extraordinary craze of the 1990s.

folded clockThe Folded Clock: a diary – Heidi Julavits – A critically acclaimed author discovers her old diaries in a storage container and reacquaints herself with a much younger version of the person she became, musing on time, self, youth, friendship, romance, faith, fate and betrayal.

clementineClementine: the life of Mrs. Winston Churchill – Sonia Purnell – A portrait of Winston Churchill’s extraordinary wife and her lesser-known role in World War II discusses her relationship with political mentor Eleanor Roosevelt, her role in safeguarding Churchill’s health throughout key historical events, and her controversial family priorities.

two hoursTwo Hours: the quest to run the impossible marathon – Ed Caesar – Delving into the science, physiology and psychology involved in running so fast, for so long, a first-of-its-kind book on marathons invites readers into the world of elite runners, showing us why this most democratic of races retains its savage, enthralling appeal—and why we are drawn to testing ourselves to the limit.

sinatraSinatra: The Chairman – James Kaplan – Presents a behind-the-scenes examination of the life and career of the legendary performer that offers insight into his prolific accomplishments, multidimensional character, and complex relationships.

we were brothersWe Were Brothers – Barry Moser – The author recalls his youth with his brother, considering in prose and illustrations how he and his brother came to be such very different people, and eventually became completely alienated from one another, before finally reconciling in spite of their differences.

hunger makesHunger Makes Me A Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein – The guitarist and vocalist of feminist punk trio Sleater-Kinney presents a candid and deeply personal assessment of life in the rock-and-roll industry that reveals her struggles with rock’s double standards and her co-development of the comedy “Portlandia.”

 

Sources:  Huffington Post, Kirkus Reviews