7 things you might not know about Winnie-the-Pooh's screen career
Happy 90th birthday, bear!
Top image: The Everett Collection
Who doesn't love the "tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff"? It's hard to believe Winnie-the-Pooh is turning 90. A.A. Milne introduced us to the Hundred Acre Wood in 1926.
This year serves as another major anniversary for the adorable bear. It was 50 years ago that Walt Disney launched its first Winnie-the-Pooh film, the 26-minute featurette Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. It ran before The Ugly Dachshund. Half a century later, Winnie is certainly not getting billed under a wiener dog.
Yet this was not the first screen adaptation of the classic children's tale. In fact, there was a live-action version of sorts a few years earlier.
Let's celebrate Pooh's birthday with a handful of fun facts.
1. The bear made his TV debut on 'The Shirley Temple Show.'
This Pooh adaptation came with strings attached. The puppet performance was aired in 1960, as part of the second and final season of the iconic actress' children's anthology series. The voice of Pooh was provided by Franz Fazakas, who would go on to work in Jim Henson's Muppet workshop, developing the mechanical eyes of Big Bird.
Image: NBC / YouTube
2. Actors from 'The Andy Griffith Show' voiced the bear for two decades.
Boomers and Gen Xers will most associate the voices of Sterling Holloway (1966–1977) and Hal Smith (1981–1986) with Winnie-the-Pooh. Holloway popped up as traveling salesman Bert Miller in the season two episode "The Merchant of Mayberry," pictured here. Hal Smith, meanwhile, had a much larger role on the sitcom. He was town drunk Otis Campbell!
3. The original Disney shorts have a link to 'Family Affair,' too.
Disney honored the stories' English literary roots by hiring actor Sebastian Cabot to narrate its Pooh films. Cabot was best known as butler Giles French on the charming late-'60s sitcom Family Affair.
4. Brits hated the changes made by Walt Disney.
The first Walt Disney short replaced Piglet with a gopher to appeal to Americans. Weird in hindsight to think that Americans wouldn't enjoy a pig. Bacon is practically our national food. The British newspaper The Daily Mail attacked the decision, writing, "It appears in the Very Unenchanted Forest of film production, a gopher is worth more than a Piglet!" Original Pooh illustrator E. H. Shepard called the change "A complete travesty." Others staged protests.
5. He won an Academy Award.
Piglet finally made his appearance in the sequel, two years later. Perhaps that's what helped Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day win the 1968 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. We hope he keeps that Oscar next to the "Hunny."
Image: Disney / Wikipedia
6. He looks much different in Russia.
Between 1969 and 1972, Vinni Pukh appeared in three Soviet cartoons. The little mishka looks a bit like the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics mascot.
7. Tigger is the only original character from the books not mentioned in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" theme song.
"Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh…" Everybody knows the tune, written by the brilliant Sherman Brothers. However, poor Tigger is left out of this sing-along. The songwriters made it up to him by penning "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers" in 1968.
Image: Disney / YouTube