'Winnie the Pooh' cast
Source: Getty Images

Rights to Winnie the Pooh Have Lapsed — Who Owns It Now?

Jennifer Farrington - Author
By

May 27 2022, Published 11:48 a.m. ET

Winnie the Pooh, the beloved cuddly bear most millennials and baby boomers grew up watching as children, is being cast in a different light in the upcoming film Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. If you’ve caught a glimpse of some stills from the latest Winnie the Pooh film to be released, which is being produced by Jagged Edge Productions, you’re likely asking yourself “why” and “how.”

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Seeing that the copyright for the original Winnie the Pooh cast featured in A.A. Milne’s stories lapsed about five months ago, no parties hold the exclusive rights to the early versions of the characters. What about Walt Disney Co.?

Disney still holds the rights to its version of the characters featured in Winnie the Pooh stories and films.

Winnie the Pooh
Source: Getty Images

Although Disney no longer holds the exclusive rights to Winnie the Pooh, its version of the character and his pals are still protected under copyright. When Winnie the Pooh made his first debut in children’s books in 1926, his character was owned by A.A. Milne. Then, in 1961, Disney decided to adopt Winnie the Pooh and his friends, which then put into place a royalty deal.

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For years, Disney reportedly paid royalties to the Milne family and the Pooh Properties Trust. But in 2001, Disney decided to buy full rights to the characters for around $350 million. While Disney may no longer hold the rights to the original version of the Winnie the Pooh character, Piglet, and a few others, it still owns Tiger.

Tiger was first introduced in 1928, and his character is still protected under Disney’s copyright. Therefore, he won’t be featured in Rhys Waterfield’s horror film, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.

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Details on the upcoming film ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’

Since Milne’s early Winnie the Pooh stories fell out of copyright in January 2022, it has given people like Rhys Waterfield the opportunity to create a film centered around Pooh Bear without the worry of violating copyright laws. Still, Waterfield shared with Variety that he and his team have had to be “extremely careful” while producing the film to ensure it “was only based on the 1926 version of [the Winnie the Pooh stories].”

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Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is based on the story of Pooh and Piglet “going on a rampage after being abandoned by a college-bound Christopher Robin.” Without food and Robin to be there to care for them, Pooh and Piglet go “back to their animal roots” and are “no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey,” Waterfield shared with Variety.

Waterfield also said that the film was “shot in 10 days in England” near Ashdown Forest with the help of Scott Jeffrey, who co-produced it. While the film is classified as a horror flick, it also carries a comedic tone. ITN Studios will be responsible for distributing the film, though a release date hasn't been set yet.

Although many might be interested in seeing how Waterfield adapted Pooh’s character to fit the film, he told Variety that viewers shouldn't expect “a Hollywood-level production.”

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