[BlogEntry] Disney Loses Key Battle Over Winnie The Pooh

Any fan of classic literature has got to be frustrated by the Disney-fication of eventually all children's classics. When we decorated Katherine's nursery we told people that the theme was "classic Pooh" rather than "Disney Pooh". If you didn't realize that, you do not. All of them – not just Cinderella and Snow White, but Sleeping Beauty and Little Mermaid too, all are old public domain stories that Disney has sanitized and merchandised. Some of them are actually better in the original, if you ask me. Read the original Sleeping Beauty some time and then see how dumbed down the Disney version is.

Anyway, this post is not about princesses, it's about the sordid history of Winnie the Pooh and Disney's recent loss in that war. You see, the rights to Pooh are technically owned by the Slesinger family, who purchased them from A.A. Milne back in 1930. In 1961 the family signed a deal with Disney to market Pooh, and receive royalties. However around 1991 it appears that the deal went south, and Disney just stopped making the royalty payments. It's worth noting that Pooh around this time surpassed Mickey Mouse as Disney's biggest money maker. But, hey, they're Disney, they're above the law, right?
Like Scientology or Microsoft they can just throw paperwork and lawyers at the problem until the other party just goes away.

In 2002 some granddaughters of Milne and Shepard appeared out of nowhere and tried to file a copyright claim to the characters which would essentially have erased Slesinger's complaint against Disney (since they would never have had the right to license Pooh in the first place). Disney was not technically a part of that lawsuit, but basically they funded the whole thing. They said that they would pay the granddaughters' costs, as long as, if they won, the granddaughters also signed their rights over to Disney. That's practically Asimov's grandfather paradox, if you think about it. How evil do they have to be to even think of sometihng like that? We can't think of a reason why we shouldn't have to pay this deal we signed…I know! We'll go back in time and fix it so that they never had the rights to do the deal in the first place! Mwahahahah!

Only problem is, as of Thursday, it didn't work. The judge threw it out. Apparently in 1983 one of the surviving Milne's did indeed know about and approve of, on paper, the Slesinger deal. So she couldn't then swoop in and say "No deal."

Want an idea of just how big the Disney marketing juggernaut is? Apparently the Slesinger's are owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion dollars in royalties. Billion. Have a nice day.