Winnie the Pooh is a beloved character that many of us associate with Walt Disney cartoons, appearing in the 100-Acre Wood with Winnie and his friends, but Winnie’s initial creators were not the writers and animators at Disney. To commemorate the character’s maker, Alan Alexander Milne, on his birthday, Winnie the Pooh Day is celebrated on January 18th. A. A. Milne brought Winnie to the world with a short story, “The Wrong Sort of Bees” and then in the first collection of Winnie the Pooh stories, “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926).
The characters in the original stories were inspired by Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, and some of his favourite toys; a stuffed bear named Winnie the Pooh, a piglet, a pair of kangaroos, a tiger, and a donkey.
Though Milne went to Cambridge to study mathematics, he began to focus on writing while still a student. After getting his degree in 1903, he pursued a career as a writer and was soon producing humorous pieces for the magazine Punch. Milne took on the duties of assistant editor at Punch in 1906.
Following his service in World War I, Milne became a successful playwright (along with original plays, he penned adaptations, such as turning The Wind in the Willows into the successful Toad at Toad Hall). Milne also authored a popular detective novel, The Red House Mystery (1922).
However, once his Winnie the Pooh books arrived on the scene, Milne’s name was forever associated with children’s writing. Now his other works are largely forgotten. Milne’s stories about Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the 100-acre wood became immensely popular in a short amount of time and have remained so ever since.
Disney acquired the rights to the Winnie the Pooh characters and stories in 1961, with the first Winnie the Pooh cartoon short, “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree,” released in 1966. Since then, Disney has featured Winnie the Pooh and his friends in numerous cartoons, books, merchandise, and even theme park rides.