Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree
. And now, after several years in hibernation, Disney is bringing Pooh back to theaters.
In spring 2011, Disney plans to release a theatrical animated Winnie the Pooh film as part of a rejuvenation of the classic brand. The new film will take an old-school approach to animation without the bells and whistles of CGI or 3-D.
"It's going to be traditional animation in the spirit of the original," says Simon Waters, vice president of franchise development and strategic marketing for Disney Consumer Products. "It's going to be an animated feature film with classic Disney art style."
A back-to-basics approach will be the theme of the film's licensing program as well, which will feature long-time partners, including Fisher-Price, Hallmark and Kimberly-Clark. The decision to stay with classic 2-D animation was helped along by consumer research that found
"Brand awareness for Winnie the Pooh is almost universal for women ages 18 to 50 in the U.S.," says Waters. "And it's consistently among the top choices for women when it comes to buying merchandise for infants."
Research shows that Tigger and Pooh are the two most liked kids' characters among adult women ages 35 to 50 and that women ages 18 to 34 associate Winnie the Pooh with good life lessons. And Pooh was ranked as the top character for mothers of infants ages 0 to 12 months. That enduring appeal has been reinforced in recent years through the animated TV show "My Friends Tigger and Pooh" and the 2005 feature film
Pooh's Heffalump Movie
Waters says the 2011 film release will be the centerpiece of Pooh's rejuvenation, but that Disney has supporting plans in the works.
"The rejuvenation plan is centered on the theatrical release, but it will also include live stage shows and new home video releases," says Waters. "So it's going to be a really comprehensive plan as we go forward."
He says Disney is also open to new ideas. Though Winnie the Pooh already has hundreds of licensees, Disney is always looking for something new and different. "We have a very established core group of licensees who are constantly coming up with new products," says Waters. "But if someone brings something new to the table, we're always ready to listen."
The new wave of Disney merchandise due for release around the film will start arriving in stores early next year and will include a full range of products, including apparel, bedding and toys. And fans can be assured the new product will have a familiar look.
"The main thing is that everyone is excited about seeing Winnie the Pooh go back to basics," says Waters. "You really don't need to over-think Winnie the Pooh that much because the world of the 100 Acre Wood is still rich for exploration."
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