You probably already know that Disney’s Winnie the Pooh was based on a book series—and that the book series was based on some stuffed animals that belonged to author A.A. Milne’s son. But that’s just the beginning of Winnie the Pooh’s story. Here are some more stuffed-with-fluff facts about what happened when Disney took over.
1. Walt Disney was introduced to the book via his daughter, Diane.
“Dad would hear me laughing alone in my room and come in to see what I was laughing about,” she said. “I read [Milne’s stories] over and over, and then many years later to my children, and now to my grandchildren.” Disney’s daughters’ literary preferences were a major influence in his decision to make several movies, including Mary Poppins.
2. It took nearly 30 years to get Pooh onscreen.
Diane was a child in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. The first Pooh movie didn’t come out until 1977. Why the long wait? Walt had actually tried to acquire the rights to Pooh as early as 1937, but he didn’t receive them until 1961, and released the first featurette in 1966. The 1977 film combined three of those featurettes (Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day, and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too) into one movie, with new animation that united the stories together.
3. A young Clint Howard (actor and Ron's younger brother) was the voice of Roo in the early featurettes.
But that wasn't the only work he did for Disney. Howard also voiced an elephant in The Jungle Book, and, as an adult, appeared in The Rocketeer.
4. The 1968 short Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day was the last animated short produced by Walt Disney before he died.
In fact, he ended up posthumously winning the Best Animated Short Oscar for it in 1968.
5. Winnie the Pooh was originally voiced by Sterling Holloway.
Holloway was also the voice of Kaa in The Jungle Book and the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, among others.
6. These days, Pooh’s distinctive tone is provided by Jim Cummings.
Cummings will occasionally use his talents to call Make-a-Wish patients while in character. He also calls other young fans who aren't sick, with results that are just as heartwarming.
Here’s another tidbit about Cummings that might blow your mind: The man who speaks so sweetly for everyone’s favorite honey-loving bear has also provided the throaty growl for Scar in The Lion King. When Jeremy Irons developed voice problems while recording the song “Be Prepared,” Cummings stepped in and finished the job. See if you can tell where he takes over:
7. Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too won a Grammy.
In 1975, the short took home the Grammy for the Best Album for Children, a category was discontinued in 1994. The soundtrack included this catchy tune:
8. It’s Winnie the Pooh—not Jim Cummings, and not Sterling Holloway—who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He’s one of four Disney characters to be recognized. The others are Snow White, Donald Duck—and Mickey Mouse, of course.
9. The character of Samuel Gopher is only found in the movies.
There’s even a sly reference to this in Winnie Pooh and the Honey Tree, when Gopher says, “[I’m] not in the book, y’know.” (He’s actually referring to the phone book.) Strangely, however, A.A. Milne’s niece later said that her uncle had considered adding a gopher character to his books, but the chapters he wrote with the rodent were ultimately dropped by his publisher.
10. Craig Ferguson is currently the voice of Owl.
He replaced long-time voice actor Andre Stojka in 2011. The New York Times calls Ferguson "a particularly fine Owl."
11. Pooh once ran for president.
He wasn’t just a write-in vote—he actually had an organized campaign, including a “Winnie the Pooh for President” convention in 1968 at the Hollywood Bowl. More than 10,000 supporters showed up to see Pooh and pals perform musical numbers such as “Hunny in Every Pot” and “A Good 5-Cent Candy Cigar.” After losing the election, Pooh made one more go of it in 1972 when he received the nomination from the Children’s Party ticket. He announced his platform and campaign strategy from his “West Coast retreat,” AKA Disneyland.
12. The score to the early featurettes included musical instruments representing each of the Hundred Acre Wood residents.
Rabbit was a clarinet, Owl was the ocarina and French horn, Kanga was a flute, Roo a piccolo, Piglet an oboe, and Eeyore was a bass clarinet. Pooh himself was represented by a baritone horn.