Halloween With Winnie the Poohby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
Halloween wisdom from The Book of Boo (2002):
Eeyore: "Never been much good at the whole Halloween thing, I guess. I got to admit, getting a little spooked does give you a charge, as long as it's with your friends."
Piglet: "Don't you think g-ghosts are scary, Eeyore?"
Eeyore: "Ghosts, goblins, gargoyles, ghouls. A bunch of words that start with 'G' as far as I can tell."
Even though the Disney parks have cancelled their Halloween events, it is important to remember that, in the Disney universe, Halloween is almost as prominent as Christmas. While others sometime celebrate Xmas in July, this year I thought it might be fun to celebrate Halloween in July and remind Disney fans that no matter what the world looks like four months from now, you can always enjoy a Disney Halloween.
Every October over the last 30 years, Disney transforms the fabled and beloved Hundred Acre Wood into the Haunted Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and his friends enjoying a very Americanized version of the frightful holiday. In fact, the characters have been branded to the holiday as a way of embracing younger children to the celebration who may have some fears about the spookier elements.
The Halloween version of Disney's Winnie the Pooh and his friends have been found on almost everything including figurines, pins, buttons, plush figures, trick or treat candy buckets, bags, multiple books, CDs (including Halloween Songs and Sounds (1997) from Walt Disney Records), cookie jars, musical snow globe, inflatable figure, beanie babies, light set, night light, mugs and much more.
Pooh himself goes out trick-or-treating outfitted as a bee, pumpkin, skeleton, bat, wizard, witch, black scaredy cat, pirate, rabbit and even one time as Tigger, as well as other costumes, including as a totem pole in tandem with Piglet.
While the holiday of Halloween originated in ancient Britain as the festival of Samhain, British author A.A. Milne never wrote about his creations participating in Halloween. If he had, it would have been a much different version since the U.K. celebrates the holiday differently.
In general, Brits tend to wear more traditional Halloween costumes, dressing up as ghosts, zombies, and other fearsome creatures rather than the wide variety their American cousins choose from including pirates to princesses to superheroes.
It's rare for people in the UK to put up an excessive amount of Halloween decorations. Spooky sweets might include Nestlé Milkybar Ghosts and Cadbury Pumpkin Patch Cakes that are sold seasonally at the time rather than candy corn.
Guy Fawkes Day celebrated just days later on November 5 with bonfires and fireworks has always been the more significant holiday although in recent years Halloween has gained more and more popularity.
However, once Disney took control of the Winnie the Pooh characters, they became progressively more Americanized so it was natural for them to celebrate the spooky holiday the way it was done in the United States.
When Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937 to such success, Walt aggressively and quickly looked to obtain the rights to other fanciful stories, from Peter Pan to Winnie the Pooh. Walt had a two-fold purpose: To obtain material for future projects and to prevent other studios from producing films based on those stories.
Author A.A. Milne, who in 1926 created the bear of very little brain and his friends based on his son Christopher's stuffed toys, had admired Walt Disney. He even wrote to Kenneth Grahame's widow about Toad of Toad Hall that, "I expect you have heard that Disney is interested in it? It is just the thing for him, of course, and he would do it beautifully." When Disney finally released its version of Wind in the Willows in 1949, the story reflected Milne's renowned stage adaptation of the tale as much as the original story by Grahame.
Sometimes, the quest for those rights to projects took decades. In the case of Winnie the Pooh, Walt made several attempts in the 1940s and 1950s to obtain the rights even though it seemed apparent that Walt had little personal enthusiasm for the characters and the stories.
He first became aware of the stories because in 1938, his young daughter Diane would read the stories and laugh out loud and it made him curious.
On July 16, 1961, the Disney Studios obtained the rights to Winnie the Pooh but it was still years before Walt announced that he was planning an animated feature based on Milne's books.
As Walt continued to discuss the project, he made the decision that American audiences might not fully embrace such a British influenced story as he felt he had learned from the mixed reaction to his version of Alice in Wonderland (1951) and that it was best to begin with a "featurette" titled Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree (1966) to introduce the characters.
Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman was assigned to direct and in an interview from that time period seems to take pride in the fact that he had never heard of Pooh until Walt mentioned it to him in 1961. In fact, Walt purposely wanted people involved who were unfamiliar with the characters. In the film, the characters, including Christopher Robin, seemed to speak in a Midwest American accent instead of a British one.
"The Midwest accent is the generally neutral accent at which we aim as it is acceptable in the whole American market," claimed Reitherman, who had cast his own son, Bruce, in the role of Christopher Robin, "We've got the spirit of Milne and Shepard (the illustrator of the original stories) but it's Disney, too!"
Christopher Robin was physically changed as well. Animator Hal King said, "Christopher Robin came out too sissified. So we gave him a haircut and some decent clothes."
There were complaints about the redesign of Pooh himself. Not realizing the difficulty of animating a stuffed toy (especially in a pre-computer era), complaints were made at abandoning the original Shepard design.
Fun was made of Pooh's red T-shirt, even though Pooh bears wearing such a shirt were authorized and sold at F.A.O. Schwarz store in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. From an animation standpoint, the T-shirt helps define the character, much like Mickey Mouse's distinctive shorts.
Despite all the criticisms, the "featurette" was popular in the United States and overseas.
Milne's widow, Daphne, said in an interview:
"Ever since I sold the film rights of the Pooh books to Mr. Walt Disney, I had been wondering with some anxiety what he would make of them in a cartoon. I had confidence in Mr. Disney's genius for handling imaginative themes yet one never knows whether one is going to agree! On an evening last August, I turned on the television in my London flat to see a brief advance excerpt of the Pooh cartoon being shown in a program of Walt Disney films.
"I was nervous. If I did not like this version of Pooh, I would feel deeply disappointed and hurt. Pooh is part of my life, part of my cherished memories. I leaned forward. There was a nursery scene and a glimpse of Christopher Robin as a child in cartoon.
"There was the tree in the 100 Aker (sic) Wood with bees buzzing about it, and Pooh, attached to a balloon, sailing upwards in search of honey, his favorite food. I relaxed. It was all right. Nothing jarred. I was very relieved."
Ernest Shepard, who had illustrated the books and was in his 90s, declared that the Disney version was "a complete travesty."
Despite the success of the featurette (certainly better remembered that the live action film it accompanied in theaters, The Ugly Dachshund), the Walt Disney Company was sensitive to the criticism from the United Kingdom and in the next featurettes, Piglet returned and Christopher Robin sounded British.
At the beginning of this century, under the leadership of CEO Robert Iger, whose business model was to purchase franchises, the Pooh Properties Trust licensed additional rights to Disney and accepted a buyout of $350 million of their claims to royalties as defined in a 1991 lawsuit brought by Stephen Slesinger, Inc.
Stephen Slesinger had acquired in 1930 the sole and exclusive rights to virtually all uses for Pooh and the other characters outside of the Dutton books as well as rights to any sorts of future uses. Slesinger aggressively licensed the first Pooh doll, board game, puzzle, radio broadcast and more.
By November 1931, Winnie the Pooh was a $50 million business, providing an eye-popping return on Slesinger's one thousand dollar upfront payment to Milne. Milne also received 66% of subsequent income from the arrangement.
After Slesinger's death in 1953, his widow licensed the rights to Disney in 1961 in return for regular semi-annual royalties, but the family sued the Walt Disney Company in 1991, claiming to have been short-changed by Disney by $2 billion. Disney was found to have destroyed some 40 boxes of documents that were clearly labeled relevant to the case.
In 2008, a judge found misconduct on the part of the Slesinger estate. After a long running dispute between Stephen Slesinger, Inc. and Disney Enterprises over various trademarks derived from the Winnie the Pooh works, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed a lower ruling that Disney was in fact the owner of Winnie the Pooh and the Pooh characters, and prior rulings prevented Slesinger from arguing that its agreement with Disney was only a license to use the trademarks.
The copyright on Pooh runs out in 2026, but trademarks can last as long as the property is active. Pooh's popularity continues to increase in every country around the world and the flood of Pooh merchandise shows no signs of abating.
In fact, at one point, Pooh merchandise was significantly outselling all merchandise featuring Mickey Mouse. Within the last five years, revenue on Pooh has doubled, whereas other top characters have only seen an increase of roughly 20 percent.
Halloween Movies and Shorts
Within the world of Winnie the Pooh, Halloween has been depicted on film a number of different times, including, but not limited to the following:
Because it's Halloween (1984)
Welcome to Pooh Corner was a live action television series that aired on the Disney Channel beginning in 1983. It featured performers in full-sized character costumes using "puppetronics", radio controlled devices that allowed the mouths and eyes to move. The residents of the Hundred Acre Wood (Pooh, Rabbit, Tigger, Owl, Piglet, Kanga and Roo) plan their annual Halloween party at a scary location. Eeyore intends to attend but can't decide on a costume so gets advice from his friends and tries on different outfits. At the party, everyone is scared of the other costumes but Roo shows up and wins the costume contest.
The Monster FrankenPooh (1989)
The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was an a half-hour animated television series produced by Disney that aired from 1988 to 1995 first on the Disney Channel and then on ABC.
Tigger, Rabbit, and Gopher are telling scary stories on a dark night in the Hundred Acre Wood. Piglet tells a story of a scientist (who looks exactly like Piglet) and under a blanket on a table is the Monster FrankenPooh. With contributions to the story from others, the creature becomes bigger and bigger until it hits its head on the ceiling of the castle.
The scientist Piglet runs for help as FrankenPooh goes looking for honey. After terrorizing Rabbit and Gopher in the story finally a trio of angry villagers (Rabbit, Gopher and Owl) storm the scared scientist's castle. The real Piglet is terrified of this turn in the story and Tigger, Rabbit and Gopher comfort him and counsel him to learn the difference between what is real and what is not.
Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh (1996)
This was a 20-minute special produced by Walt Disney Television Animation that aired October 25, 1996 on ABC. It was part of an hour special that also included the short cartoons Lonesome Ghosts, Pluto's Judgement Day and Trick or Treat. The Pooh segment was later included in Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2006).
For Halloween, the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood are eager to go trick-or-treating but Piglet has never done so because he is too afraid. However, this time, at their urging, he decides to join his friends. While out, Pooh dressed in a bee costume tries to get honey from a bee hive but the bees chase the group into Rabbit's garden and they destroy his pumpkins in the process.
As night approaches there is a threatening thunderstorm forming and Tigger excitedly talks about the horrors of Halloween that frightens Piglet to run home and he boards up his windows.
His friends (Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger) decide to throw Piglet a less scary "Hallo-wasn't" party but when the costumed friends show up at Piglet's house, he mistakes them for monsters and runs away. The friends go search for the missing Piglet who ironically is looking for them. He finally decides they have been taken by "Spookables".
During the stormy night, Pooh's costume gets stuck on a tree branch and Eeyore and Tigger try to help the bear who is crying for help. Piglet believes that two "Spookables"are attacking his friend and he summons his courage to rescue his friend. They commend Piglet for his bravery and they all go trick-or-treating together.
Winnie the Pooh's Spookable Fun (aka Spookable Pooh) featuring "scary" animated episodes came on television in 1990 and then to VHS in 1996. It was re-released on VHS again in 2000. The third time it came out on VHS was in 2002. There was also a DVD that came out in 2003 that included Boo To You.
The Book of Boo (2002)
The Book of Pooh was a half hour television show that ran on Playhouse Disney starting in 2001 done in a style of puppetry based on Japanese bunraku puppetry. With the cut-out-styled computer 3-D backgrounds, the show had the look of a pop-up book.
On the evening of Halloween, everyone gathers at Owl's house to hear the story of "The Goose Who Hated Halloween". Everyone loves the story except Eeyore who finds the story boring because nothing much scares him. He heads for home.
The others go to Kanga's house for a Halloween party where they dress up in costumes. Eeyore decides to move to The Scary Woods because nobody goes there and he won't be bothered. In addition, his house of sticks would be safe from being knocked over so he would feel safe. Piglet goes searching for Eeyore but ends up scaring him when his costume becomes covered in leaves and resembles ragweed. Piglet wins the Halloween costume contest. Eeyore decides to join in celebrating Halloween.
Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005)
This 67-minute direct-to-video movie was produced by Disney Toon Studios.
It is Lumpy the young Heffalump's first Halloween in the Hundred Acre Wood with his best friend Roo, Winnie the Pooh and the other inhabitants. They discuss their plans for trick-or-treating but Tigger warns them all about the Gobloon that he saw in the woods earlier. The Gobloon comes out every Halloween and captures someone to turn into a "jaggedy lantern".
However, if the Gobloon is captured, it will grant its captors one wish. Roo and Lumpy set out to capture the Gobloon to wish for some Halloween candy since Pooh has eaten it all. They journey past the Creepy Cave, the Slimy Slide and the Tree of Terror. As they get closer to the Gobloon's lair, Lumpy loses his courage so Roo tells him the story from Boo To You Winnie the Pooh (1996) when Piglet was afraid at Halloween.
Lumpy and Roo set a trap but end up running away with Lumpy getting stuck in the trap. Roo finds a Jack-o-lantern that looks like Lumpy so he thinks the Gobloon has captured his friend and transformed him. Roo asks Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and Rabbit to help him capture the Gobloon and save Lumpy.
Lumpy breaks free from his trap when he hears them coming. The group finally go trick-or-treating. It turns out that Tigger mistook Kanga for the Gobloon because she had carved jack-o-lanterns in the likenesses of the friends but somehow accidentally dropped the one of Lumpy. Everyone ends up enjoying the Halloween party.
Darby's Halloween Case (2009)
My Friends Tigger & Pooh was a computer animated television series that first aired in 2007 on Playhouse Disney. Instead of Christopher Robin, the series featured a six year old red-headed girl named Darby and her dog Buster. Darby is the younger best friend of Christopher Robin who went off to college. She is the leader of the Super Sleuths composed of Darby, Buster, Pooh and Tigger. They wear outfits with question marks on them and they solve mysterious activities in the Hundred Acre Wood.
When Turtle hosts a Halloween party in his cave, everyone hears strange noises and things start moving on their own. They decide that the cave must be haunted by ghosts so Piglet calls the Super Sleuths to find out what is happening.
Multiple books have been released over the years with Disney's version of Winnie the Pooh celebrating Halloween but they are all geared to the youngest readers. Here is a listing of some of them:
Disney's Winnie the Pooh's Halloween (1995)
This 32-page book written by Bruce Talkington has Christopher Robin explaining to his animal friends some of the mysteries of Halloween. Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and others don their costumes to go out but Piglet decides to remain at home to hide from spooks.
Pooh Trick or Treat (1997)
This 24-page Golden Book was written by Ann Braybrooks with illustrations by Arkadia with Pooh and Piglet wearing a joint costume of a totem pole while Tigger wears a sheet.
Disney's Pooh Says Boo (1998)
This 10-page "Lift the Flap" book written by Nancy Parent has Pooh and his friends ready to trick-or-treat but Piglet too scared to join them. The short page length leads to some confusion with both Pooh and Tigger changing costumes without explanation and fearful lightning bolts discovered under one flap. Apparently inspired in part by the straight-to-video movie Boo to You Winnie the Pooh.
Winnie the Pooh's Spookable Halloween (1998)
This ten page giant "Lift the Flap" board book was written by Nancy Parent. Pooh and his friends dress up in costumes, carve pumpkins, and head off on a Halloween exploration through the Hundred Acre Wood.
Pooh's Halloween Parade (1999)
This 37-page book written by Isabel Gaines tells the story of Pooh and his friends gathering together for their annual Halloween parade when they discover a scary and noisy rock in the back of the room.
Winnie the Pooh Happy Halloween Coloring Book (1999)
70 pages of drawings to color from Golden Books
Pooh's Happy Halloween (1999)
A 70-page Random House children's storybook.
Disney's Trick or Treat, Pooh (2000)
This 12-page "Lift the Flap" book tells the tale of Winnie the Pooh, dressed as a honey pot, and Piglet and Roo, dressed as each other, going trick-or-treating but can't seem to find anybody at home at Halloween to give them treats.
Pooh's Halloween Pumpkin (2003)
This 32 page "Step Into Reading" book written by Isabel Gaines and illustrated by Josie Yee has Pooh planting pumpkin seeds in hopes of having a big pumpkin by Halloween. The story goes through the process of planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall. While he waits, Pooh eats and eats and eats.
Winnie the Pooh's Halloween Pumpkin (2013)
This 10 page board book is like a pumpkin shaped trick-or-treat bucket with a braided cord handle. While walking through the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh stumbles upon a giant orange pumpkin. With the help of his friends, Pooh comes up with a perfect plan for the pumpkin which is to make it a jack-o-lantern for the holiday.
Disney Winnie the Pooh – Happy Halloween (2018)
This 18-page publication is a "Look and Find" board book that is themed to Pooh and his friends at Halloween. Readers search seven vividly illustrated scenes for hidden characters and objects. While there is text, no reading is required for younger children to participate.
Boo to You Winnie the Pooh (2019)
This 18-page board book is the rough storybook adaptation of the straight-to-video film of the same name where Pooh and his friends have to find a way to help Piglet overcome his fears of trick-or-treating.