Disney is making some changes to the Winnie-the-Pooh format for its upcoming My Friends Tigger and Pooh animated television series — goodbye Christopher Robin, hello tomboyish six year-old girl.
First thought? They’re doing what to Winnie-the-Pooh?
Second thought after considered reflection? It’s not the first time Disney’s made changes to the Pooh format.
Disney has added characters to the Hundred-Acre-Woods before–Gopher (“I’m not in the book, you know”) first appeared in The Many Adventures, and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie added Lumpy, Roo’s Heffalump playmate. At the same time, characters from Milne’s work have been downplayed over the years — Owl rarely appears, and Christopher Robin himself almost never appears in Pooh productions. Nancy Kanter of the Disney Channel was quoted as saying, “We got raised eyebrows, even in-house, but the feeling was that these timeless characters really needed a breath of fresh air that only the introduction of someone new could provide.”
But it’s not so much “fresh air” that Disney needs for their new Pooh project — it’s differentiation that they need. Welcome to Pooh Corner (puppets), The Book of Pooh (animatronic puppets), even animated films like Pooh’s Halloween Heffalump Movie (cel-animation) show different approaches to the world of Pooh, and My Friends Tigger and Pooh will, despite being different from these other Pooh projects by virtue of its CGI computer animation, need a shorthand way of marking itself as different from any other Pooh project. Introducing a new character for Tigger and Pooh to react to and interact with, a character that the young audiences Disney wants to ensnare with their program, provides that necessary shorthand and offers a hook to the audience onto which they can latch.
I admit, I’m mildly curious who this tomboyish girl will be — Christopher Robin’s American cousin? Losing Christopher Robin, at least in My Friends Tigger and Pooh, isn’t the end of the world for the Hundred-Acre-Woods. Rather, it’s a new beginning, for a show with a new approach. That initial squick feeling was entirely premature. 😉