Why Tigger Isn’t in ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’
Feb 18, 2023
Home Interviews Why Tigger Isn’t in ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’
Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield explains the limitations of working with material in the public domain.
There’s a super violent and very bloody Winnie the Pooh movie in theaters right now. How exactly does something like that happen? It’s all thanks to public domain rules.
Per US copyright law, 95 years after publication, a book enters the public domain and can be legally used or referenced without permission. A. A. Milne’s first collection of stories about Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, was published in 1926, so at the end of 2021, the copyright expired allowing filmmaker Rhys Frake-Waterfield and the team over at Jagged Edge Productions to swoop in and make their own Winnie the Pooh movie. Or, more specifically, their own Winnie the Pooh horror movie.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey follows what happens after Christopher Robin (Nikolai Leon) abandons his Hundred Acre Wood friends. Pooh, Piglet, and others are left to fend for themselves, and ultimately turn bloodthirsty and feral. When a group of women in need of a peaceful getaway opts to stay in a remote cabin a little too close to Hundred Acre Wood, they become Pooh and Piglet’s next targets.
With Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey now playing in over 1,500 theaters nationwide, we got the chance to chat with Frake-Waterfield about his journey going from working at an energy company to making a micro-budget horror film that’s become a viral sensation.
Image via Jagged Edge Productions
While discussing the development of the idea, Frake-Waterfield offered a little insight into what is and what is not allowed when working with a property after it’s entered the public domain — specifically one that still has significant ties to a major studio, Disney. Here’s what Frake-Waterfield said when asked for familiar Winnie the Pooh elements he was not allowed to include when making Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey:
“I had to be very careful when I was doing this. So I looked at the 1926 book and only read that as my reference essentially, and then just went off on tangents and just got inspired by that, because anything which was created post then is still under the copyright of Disney. So, for example, you’ve got Tigger. He wasn’t allowed to be in it. The way Pooh speaks as well. That’s obviously not in the book. That sort of tone which everyone links to Winnie the Pooh is their copyright really. That’s their kind of branding with him. So I couldn’t use that, I couldn’t use phrases like, ‘Oh, bother,’ I couldn’t put the red t-shirt on him. So there are a lot of these elements you just need to be really, really careful with because if you make a mistake there and you make the film, and if I had accidentally put Tigger in the film or got him to say ‘oh, bother’ a lot, I would be really encroaching on their copyright and their branding then, and then that would have probably caused a lot of issues with getting this released.”
Image via Jagged Edge Productions
Frake-Waterfield is gearing up to make a Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey sequel and did tease plans to add more characters to the Piglet/Pooh team. Given these restrictions, it seems as though Tigger won’t be one of them.
Keep an eye out for more from our Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey chat with Rhys-Wakefield coming soon!
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