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Jim Hill
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by Jim Hill (archives)
May 1, 2001
In this week's column Jim discovers the original Winnie the Pooh in the unlikeliest of places.

You Find Disney-related Crud in Some of the Weirdest Places
Jim Hill recounts his recent encounter with the real Winnie the Pooh -- who currently resides in ... Well, you'll have to read it to believe it.

Part One: Pooh Under Glass

Here's an intriguing question for all you Disneyana trivia buffs out there.

If you wanted to go see the real Winnie the Pooh, where would you go?

A) Orlando, where you could wave at Winnie as you ride through "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" attraction at WDW's Magic Kingdom.

B) Tokyo Bay, where you can roll around in a state-of-the-art hunny pot as you take part in "Pooh's Hunny Hunt" at Tokyo Disneyland.

C) Just outside the village of Hartsfield in the U.K., where you can go bear hunting in the really-for-real 100 acre woods.

D) None of the above.

My apologies to all you "Who Want to Be a Millionaire" fans out there. But I'm afraid that LaughingPlace.com won't be offering you any lifelines today. So there'll be no polling the audience, no 50/50 or "Phone a Friend" here ...

And your final answer is? ... Oh, I'm so sorry. The actual answer was "D." For the real Winnie the Pooh isn't to be found in Orlando, Tokyo or anywhere in Merry Old England. These days, the original Edward Bear -- along with Christopher Robin's other nursery days friends: the really-for-real Eeyore, Kanga, Piglet and Tigger -- can be found behind bullet-proof glass in (of all places) the New York Public library.

How exactly did Pooh & pals end up in the Big Apple. Well, that's kind of an interesting story ...

This stuffed animals are the real deal, people. The actual children's playthings that inspired Christopher Robin Milne's dad -- A.A.Milne -- to write those beloved children's classics, "When We Were Very Young" (1924), "Winnie the Pooh" (1926), "Now We Are Six" (1927) and "The House at Pooh Corner" (1928). These same toys also served as the models for the Ernest H. Shepard line drawings that were used to illustrate these beloved children's book.

These Milne books were originally published in England by Methuen Company, Ltd., while E.P. Dutton was awarded the North America rights to release these very same books.

Now right from the get-go, Milne's "Pooh" stories were enormously popular. They sold hundreds of thousands of copies during their first few years in publication ... and continued to be strong sellers for both Metheun & Dutton as the decades moved on.

However, right after World War II, stateside sales of the Pooh books began to dip slightly. In an effort to rekindle Americans' interest in his children's stories, Milne cooked up a pretty interesting publicity stunt. A.A. would send the real Edward Bear & friends over to America, so that U.S. readers could finally see the actual toys that inspired Milne's whimsical fantasy stories. Milne hope that this toy tour -- and all the publicity it would undoubtly generate -- would help boost sales of his books.

So with A.A.'s blessing, Pooh & pals made the trek across the Atlantic in 1947. Dutton arranged for a whirl-wind publicity tour for the celebrated toys. After making stops in every major media market, Winnie's stateside visit did exactly what it was supposed to: It provided tons of free advertising for Milne's book in the U.S., which resulted in significant higher sales for all four volumes at American book stores for several years to come.

Once the publicity tour was complete, Winnie and his toy room friends returned to E.P. Dutton's Manhattan headquarters -- out of which they were eventually supposed to be shipped back to the U.K.

Only Dutton's staff never quite got around to sending Pooh & friends back home. Why For? Well ... That's kind of a gray area. No one at Dutton now can recall if staffers at the New York office deliberately decided not to send Edward Bear home or if what ended up happening was just an unfortunate oversight.

Whatever the case was here, for another 40 years, Winnie, Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga and Piglet just ended up hanging out in E.P.'s NYC headquarters. I'm told that one particular editor at Dutton was eventually assigned with the care & feeding of Christopher Robin's friends. This gentlemen supposedly kept these world famous toys locked up in a display case in his office. Though -- I've also heard that -- if you asked nice, this same Dutton editor would often pull these most famous of toys out of the cabinet and allow special guests to handle them.

Eventually, the staff at Dutton began to think that it was wrong that only those lucky few people who got to tour the company's Manhattan headquarters ever to got see Pooh & pals up close. Since Winnie and his friends really belonged to the world, Dutton's staffers felt that it was important that the children of the world finally get their chance to see these beloved toys.

Which was why Dutton decided to donate Winnie the Pooh & friends to the New York Public Libary back in 1987. Ever since then, some 750,000 Pooh fans annually make the trek to the second floor of the West 53rd Street branch just so they can say "Hello" to that celebrated bear.

Of course, among these many visitors who have come by to see this beloved bruin and his buddies were British-based Winnie the Pooh fans. Some of whom, in the mid-1990s, learned that Pooh was now decades overdue to return to the U.K. following what was supposed to be a brief U.S. publicity tour.

Since these folks considered Pooh to be a distinctly British literary icon, they decided it was high time that Winnie head for home. So these people contacted several members in Parliament and -- within weeks -- a second Revolutionary War was brewing over a bruin.

ON THURSDAY: The conclusion of this very weird tale about Winnie the Pooh. Learn how New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and even then-President Bill Clinton stepped in to prevent Pooh & pals from finally heading home to the 100 Acre Woods.

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-- Jim Hill

Jim Hill can be reached using the Talkback form below or by emailing him at stadlerhill@mindspring.com.

Jim Hill is this guy who lives 'way out in the woods of New Hampshire. (Hey, it's not like he wants to live there. But the Witness Protection Program has got rules, you know.) He has one beautiful daughter and three obnoxious cats. When he's not looking for real work, Jim writes about the Walt Disney Company and related matters for LaughingPlace.com, AmusementPark.com, "Orlando Weekly" and Digital Media FX.

The opinions expressed by Jim Hill, and all of our columnists, do not necessarily represent the feelings of LaughingPlace.com or any of its employees or advertisers. All speculation and rumors about the past decisions and future plans of the Walt Disney Company are just that - speculation and rumors - and should be treated as such.

-- Posted May 1, 2001