A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh to be turned into horror movie after original copyright expires

The beloved children's character Winnie the Pooh has undergone a few changes in the hundred years since he was, but few as different as this. Martin Stew reports

The first trailer for the upcoming Winnie the Pooh horror film has been released to global audiences.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey was first announced in May, shortly after the original copyright for the famous children's character ended.

Filmmakers are now legally free to use the works of author A.A. Milne for inspiration for the first time and adapt some of his characters for new projects.

The film trailer depicts a grown-up Christopher Robin returning to the 100 Acre Wood, which he abandoned after growing out of his childhood years. In his absence, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet have grown resentful and now have a lust for blood. The movie is directed by Rhys Waterfield, who also wrote and co-produced the film.

In an interview with Variety Magazine, Mr Waterfield said he would look to get the film "through post production as fast as we can," after receiving a strong response to its first trailer.

He described how Winnie the Pooh and Piglet would be "the main villains…going on a rampage” in the film.

“Because they’ve had to fend for themselves so much, they’ve essentially become feral," he said.

“So they’ve gone back to their animal roots. They’re no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.”

The trailer for the film is R-rated and viewers should be aged above 18 to watch it.

While creators are free to use the original works of Milne, Disney still own the creative rights to the cartoon versions of Winnie the Pooh.

The organisation acquired these from the Milne estate in 1961, and so any elements created by Disney cannot be used without its permission.

Mr Waterfield added that the makers of the film had been "extremely careful" not to infringe on copyright laws, and that they did "as much as we could" to make sure it was only based on Milne's original book.

For example, the film's depiction of Winnie the Pooh does not wear a red t-shirt, which was a Disney created element.

The premise of the film sees a grown-up Christopher Robin return to the 100 Acre Wood. Credit: Jagged Edge Productions

Copyright laws vary depending on the country and generally in the US and UK copyright for published works lasts the lifetime of the author, plus 70 years after they die.

But in the US there are some exceptions and as a result copyright for Milne's works ended at the end of 2021.

The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 addresses when a creation is a "work for hire," which protects a company's copyright for 95 years from first publication or 120 years after its creation, whichever ends sooner.

Milne's Winnie the Pooh book was first published in 1926.

Winnie the Pooh and Piglet will be "the main villains" in the film. Credit: Jagged Edge Productions

When the original copyright of Winnie the Pooh expired at the start of 2022, Bambi - from Felix Salten's Bambi, A Life in the Woods - also became free to use.

But despite the likes of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, Owl, Eeyore, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo all being in the public domain now, creators cannot yet use the character Tigger.

Its copyright does not expire until 2024, as Tigger made its debut in Milne's second book, The House at Pooh Corner, two years later.

In that same year copyright for Steamboat Willie - widely considered the debut of Mickey Mouse - is set to expire, which could mean we see similar adaptations of its character to that of Winnie the Pooh.

A release date for Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey has yet to be announced.

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