Page 1 of 3
You Find Disney-related Crud in Some
of the Weirdest Places
In the conclusion of this series, Jim Hill details the battle that broke out over Edward Bear as well as the info that eventually made Britain back off. Could it be that the teddy bear who was supposed to be the real model for Ernest H. Shepards illustrations never actually left the U.K. ?
Click here if you missed Part One
When last we left the real Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga and Piglet, "Pooh" s author A.A. Milne had allowed the toys to leave the U.K. for what originally was supposed to be just a short publicity tour of the United States. But then - when that tour was completed in late 1948 - the staff at E.P. Dutton & Co. (The American publishers of Milnes "Winnie the Pooh" books) neglected / "forgot" / deliberately decided not to send Edward Bear and his buddies back to Great Britain.
Amazingly, neither A.A. Milne or Poohs British publisher - Methuen & Co. - didnt raise a fuss when they learned about this. They also didnt squawk when Dutton put the real Pooh & pals on display in its Manhattan headquarters in 1956. Or when Dutton decided to donate the dolls to the New York Public Library in 1987.
Eventually, though, Pooh fans in the U.K. got tired of being polite. They wanted Pooh & pals returned ASAP, so that they could finally come home to British soil. So - in February of 1998 - these Edward Bear enthusiasts enlisted a member of Parliament to help them in their quest to bring these beloved toys back to Britain.
The war of words that eventually erupted over this issue eventually involved both the President of the United States as well as the Prime Minister of Great Britain. And the media - of course - had a field day as they whipped a firestorm of coverage concerning which country would eventually get custody of this beloved bruin.
The British position of the Pooh issue was rooted in politeness and good manners, and went something like this:
"Excuse me, America? I beg your pardon, but I believe that you folks may have inadvertantly overlooked the fact that youre somewhat-less-than-legally taken possession of Winnie the Pooh. Please allow us to point out that we loaned this most British of bears to some publishers in the Colonies back in the 1940s with the understanding that they were only going stateside for a brief publicity tour. That tour actually ended decades ago. So - if it wouldnt be too much bother - could you please be so kind and promptly return our toys?"
Americas response was - surprise, surprise - considerably less polite. It went something like this:
"Hey, pal. Possession is 9/10th of the law. Weve had the real Pooh & pals for over 50 years now. He aint going home. He already IS home. Winnie and his buddies are America citizens now. So deal with it."
Sigh. All this bother over a bear with little brain.
To be honest, the Brits did fire the first volley in the "Battle of WaterPooh." (By the way, thats their headline. Not mine.) British Parliament Gwyneth Dunwoody - at the bequest of English Pooh enthusiasts - stopped by the New York Public Library in early 1998 to see for herself where these beloved toys were being kept. She visited the Central Childrens Room at the Donnell Library Center (The branch of the New York Public Library where the real Pooh & friends are on display) and - apparently - was not happy with what she saw.
Several weeks later, Dunwoody rose to address her fellow ministers at the House of Commons. She eloquently told them of Poohs plight, about how he and his other friends from the 100 Acre Woods were trapped behind bullet proof glass, thousands of miles away from home.
"They look very unhappy," Dunwoody explained. "And that doesnt surprise me, if you realize they are captured all those years. Theyre a part of British inheritance and Im certain that they want to go home."
Dunwoody then asked fellow House of Commons ministers to help her get an official request of repatriation . Which would have - in the language of diplomacy - ordered the United States government to return the the real Winnie the Pooh and friends to British soil immediately.
When United States based Pooh fans got wind of what Dunwoody and her cronies back in London were up to, diplomacy immediately flew out the window. They quickly got word to New York Citys no nonsense mayor, Rudolph Guiliani, who - after dropping by the Donnell Library Center for a photo op with the bear - announced that he was ready to "risk a war" with the British to keep these famous playthings on display at the West 53rd Street library branch.