Alan Alexander Milne (Born: January 18, 1882 Died: January 31, 1956) is the English author who wrote the books featuring the famous characters Winnie-the- Pooh and Christopher Robin. He wrote “When We Were Very Young” in 1924, “Winnie-the-Pooh” in 1926, “Now We Are Six” in 1927 and “House at Pooh Corner” in 1928. I purchased these classic children books for my son, Christopher, when he was a child for the obvious reason that he shared the name of character in the book. When my daughter was born her Great Aunt also bought her the books. I have always loved the stories and they make an excellent gift for a baby shower. It is never too early to build a child’s own library of books!
The character of Christopher Robin was named after the author’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, who had received a stuffed bear as a first birthday gift. This stuffed bear purchased in Harrod’s Store in London inspired one of the book’s main characters and was originally given the formal name “Edward”. Later the real Christopher changed the bear’s name to Winnie for a bear in the London Zoo. The story goes that there was a real bear cub that was bought from a hunter by a Canadian lieutenant. He named the bear “Winnie” after his hometown of Winnepeg, Manitoba. The bear eventually became the regiment’s mascot and was brought to England during World War I. When the regiment went to fight in France during the war the bear was officially given to the London Zoo and quickly became the zoo’s most loved attraction.
The real Christopher Robin had a collection of stuffed animals and these inspired the characters in the storybooks, such as: Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga and Roo. The other characters named Owl and Rabbit were added later in the Disney animated movies. These original stuffed animals of Christopher Milne are now on display at the New York City Public Library.
Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England was the inspiration of many of the locations in the Milne’s book. The footbridge where “Poohsticks” was played by Christopher Milne actually exists and is a tourist attraction where people play the game with sticks gathered from the nearby forest. E.H. Shepard’s wonderful illustrations were drawn from this real place and his sketches of the beautiful forest scenes are in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
In 1966, Walt Disney Studios released the first of a series of Winnie-the-Pooh animated featurettes, “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree”, followed by “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day” in 1968 and “Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too!” in 1974. These three featurettes were combined into one movie in1977 appropriately called “The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh”. Disney continued to produce more animated movies and television shows featuring the characters of Winnie-the-Pooh but one of our favorites is the 2005 movie, “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie”.
There has been quite a bit of controversy considering the legal rights to Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Milne was very liberal in granting his rights to the book’s characters to more than one entity. In the United States, Dutton Publishers acquired the exclusive rights to the books. Stephen Slesinger also acquired exclusive rights and beginning in 1930 he created the distinctive colorful images of Pooh wearing a red shirt. In 1961 the Milne estate, now known as the Pooh Properties Trust, licensed exclusive film rights to Disney. Over the course of the following years Slesinger filed suit and a court battle began. Eventually the district court found in favor of Slesinger as did the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case and sustained the Appeals Court ruling.
In 1991, Kenny Loggins released a wonderful album of children’s songs called, “Return to Pooh Corner” featuring a lovely song by the same name. I bought this album when my daughter was born and played it for her almost every night at bedtime and she would go to sleep listening to the CD. She loved the songs and still remembers them!
SPECIAL NOTE: If you are looking for a special baby shower gift this album by Kenny Loggins would make a sweet present. I would suggest combining the “Return to Pooh Corner” CD with the DVD of “The Many Adventures of Winnie- the- Pooh” and a beautiful four book set of the A.A. Milne books. Put all the gifts into a basket along with a stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh bear – what an amazing gift that would be!!
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