Disney Growls at Winnie the Real Pooh's Birthplace

From Reuters

A Canadian town that claims to be the birthplace of Winnie the Pooh wants to erect a giant statue of the famous bear, but Walt Disney studios won't let it.

"Winnie the Pooh is a Canadian," said Tom Bagdon, president of the Chamber of Commerce in White River, Ontario, about 50 miles north of Lake Superior.

"We don't understand why Disney gave us such an abrupt answer. We feel they have a movie and a half here in the true story of Winnie."

In its letter to a lawyer representing White River, Disney said such a move would not be in line with its "contractual commitments and present and future plans for this character."

Instead, Disney suggested that White River put up a statue of a regular black bear and a plaque explaining the connection to Winnie the Pooh.

Bagdon said in a telephone interview that the bear on whom British writer A. A. Milne based his children's stories and whose copyright Walt Disney Co. now holds was born near White River in 1914.

Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian with the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, bought young Pooh from a trapper for $17 when he was passing through White River on a troop train.

Colebourn, an Englishman who had settled in Winnipeg, named the one-foot-tall cub after his adopted city and the troops nicknamed her Winnie. The young black bear sailed with the soldiers to England and became the mascot of the brigade.

"She was a great morale booster for the troops," said Colebourn's 64-year-old son, Fred.

He said his father left the tamed bear at the London Zoo only after a commanding officer decided that Winnie could not go to the front lines in France.

At the zoo, Milne and his son, Christopher Robin, spotted the bear that now figures so prominently in children's literature.

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