Most of us grew up knowing Winnie the Pooh, but that wasn’t always the case. Walt Disney and his peers worked hard to introduce this silly old bear to American audiences and it’s a legacy that lives on today. (Case in point, this writer may have listened to the soundtrack earlier this week.) Here are 8 things you probably didn’t know about the history Christopher Robin and his Hundred Acre Wood pals:
2. Since Winnie the Pooh didn’t have much recognition in the U.S., Walt Disney wanted to add a traditionally American character that his audience would find relatable. Enter the creation of Gopher! (Side note: he was modeled after the badger from Lady and the Tramp.)
6. Composer Buddy Baker designed the score so that different instruments represent each of the major characters: bass clarinet for Eeyore, flute for Kanga, piccolo for Roo, clarinet for Rabbit, oboe for Piglet, ocarina and french horn for Owl, and baritone horn for Pooh.
7. Rather than doing a feature film, Walt felt that introducing the characters through a series of featurettes would make American audiences fall in the love, and he was right! In February 1966, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree was released theatrically, and its follow up, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film!
8. Sadly, Walt did not live to see the fulfillment of these plans, but Winnie the Pooh’s success came to be seen as part of his enduring legacy. Richard Sherman (who wrote the film’s songs with his brother, Robert) said, “that was in a sense a tribute to Walt Disney too, because it came out after Walt’s death of course. And yet, it was something he had personally been very much involved with. Although he wasn’t there to supervise it, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery day was Walt’s last great achievement, and now people refer to it as another Walt Disney masterpiece.” In keeping with Walt’s original intention, the first three Winnie the Pooh shorts were combined into a full-length feature, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, in 1977.