As of today, A.A. Milne’s original 1926 book Winnie-the-Pooh has entered the public domain. This means that the characters and setting of the book can legally be shared, without permission or fee. With Winnie-the-Pooh in the public domain, other studios would now be able to adapt the character and his friends.
What Does this mean for Disney?
Since Pooh and friends was the invention of A.A. Milne, the company loses its exclusivity on the character. However, under the “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” Disney would keep their own creations from the Hundred Acre Woods. Studios will not be able to use Tigger in their works though. Milne created Tigger in 1928 but is still under Disney ownership for a few more years. Disney owns the copyright for their Winnie The Pooh so any adaptations born out of the book entering the public domain can not closely resemble those in the Magic Kingdom. Characters and setting created exclusively by Disney cannot be used as well, including Gopher for example, as he was a created for Walt Disney’s cartoons and not featured in the book.
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh franchise has been a billion-dollar machine for the company and they plan to continue to use the characters with a Disney+ project currently in development. As of 2013, Winnie the Pooh is one of the best-selling franchises in the world. Pooh is also a favorite subject in books from Disney Publishing Worldwide, the world’s largest publisher of children’s books and magazines with more than 700 million products sold each year.
The last time we saw these characters was in live-action form in 2018’s Christopher Robin. The film, which stars Ewan McGregor as the title character, alongside Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn, Bronte Carmichael as their daughter Madeline Robin, and Mark Gatiss as his boss with the voices of Jim Cummings (reprising his roles as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger), Brad Garrett (reprising his role as Eeyore), Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen, and Toby Jones. The story follows an adult Christopher Robin as he loses his sense of imagination, only to be reunited with his old stuffed friends, including Winnie the Pooh.
The film grossed over $197 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise surpassing The Tigger Movie released in 2000. The film, which received mostly positive reviews from both critics and fans, also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 91st Academy Awards.
So do not worry, Disney and Winnie The Pooh’s partnership is not going anywhere. This just means we get different content from the Hundred Acre Woods and that’s good for everyone.
Check out our friend Dave Lee’s great video on the evolution on Winnie The Pooh below: