A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories have the power to charm children and adults alike. The antics of the “bear of very little brain” and other delightful animals in Hundred Acre Wood are sprinkled with words of wisdom and valuable life lessons. But did you know that Mormons have played a big role in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh productions over the past few decades? Here are five fascinating connections.
1. Church member Brady Bluhm played the voice of Christopher Robin in three Winnie the Pooh animated films in the 1990s.
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Bluhm, who was born on July 6, 1983, starred in Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin (1997), Winnie the Pooh: A Valentine for You (1999),and Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving (1999). He also had roles in several hit television shows, including Doogie Howser, M.D.; Walker, Texas Ranger; Star Trek: Voyager; and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Bluhm served a mission in Concepción, Chile, and married his wife, Abbie, in 2010.
2. Church member Frank Kenneth "Ken" Sansom was the voice of Rabbit in the television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh as well as several Winnie the Pooh movies.
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Sansom was born on April 2, 1927. He received a bachelor's degree in radio broadcasting from Brigham Young University in 1949 and began his career with a Los Angeles radio show called Sansom and Then Some.
He acted in several movies and television shows during the '70s and '80s, including Herbie Rides Again (1974), The Brady Bunch, Charlie's Angels, and Murder, She Wrote. Sansom is best know for voicing the character Rabbit in several Winnie the Pooh television shows and movies from 1988 to 2010.
Sansom entertained troops withe the United Service Organizations during the Korean War. He died on October 8, 2012, due to complications following a stroke.
3. In 1989, several Disney characters, including Winnie the Pooh, joined in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Epcot Center performance of "When You Wish Upon a Star."
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According to the June 1989 Ensign, the choir filmed four short concerts at Disney World's Epcot Center on March 18, 1989. One of the performances included a group of popular songs from Disney films. The Ensign article states, "Disney characters such as Donald Duck, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Pinocchio, Winnie the Pooh, and Snow White joined in the fun when the choir sang 'When You Wish Upon a Star.'"
The article further reports, "In addition to the Epcot Center performances, on Sunday evening the choir divided into groups of approximately 60 members each to provide music and talks at firesides in five mid-Florida stakes: Orlando, Lake Mary, Cocoa, Lakeland, and Tampa."
Watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 2014 performance of "When You Wish Upon a Star" below.
4. LDS animated film director Richard Rich was the assistant director of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974).
Image from Wikipedia
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. (The film's title is a play on the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," which was made famous during the 1840 U.S. presidential election.)
Rich was also an assistant director on the Disney animated films Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977), and Pete's Dragon (1977). He went on to direct The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985) before founding his own animation studio where he directed The Swan Princess (1994) and four sequels. He was born in 1951 and became the youngest animation director in the history of Disney during his employment.
5. Church member Brigham Taylor pitched the idea for and produced the new live-action movie Christopher Robin starring Ewan McGregor.
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According to a recent Deseret News article, Brigham Taylor pitched the idea for a live-action Winnie the Pooh film in 2003.
“I’d been inspired by something I’d seen in a Spielberg film about the ability to bring a teddy bear to life in a really sort of charming way,” Taylor told the Deseret News. “And I thought, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be amazing to see, in the live-action context, these characters that we’ve known and loved for so long?’”
The article continues, "Although the studio liked the concept, other ongoing animation projects at the time made the movie infeasible. After Taylor became a producer at Disney in 2014, the idea resurfaced."
Taylor also produced the live-action movie The Jungle Book (2016), Tomorrowland (2015), and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He was also a production executive for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005).
Watch the trailer for Christopher Robin below.
Winnie the Pooh was referenced in the April 2014 Brigham Young University commencement ceremony.
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Terry R. Seamons, who was then president of the BYU Alumni Association, said the following in his address titled "We Believe in You":
There are some of you who will remember the classic children’s story Winnie-the-Pooh. As you recall, Pooh had a very unique way of going down stairs. He would go bump, bump, bump, bump down the stairs on the back of his head.
According to one telling of the story, one day Christopher Robin asked Pooh why he always went down stairs on the back of his head when it must really hurt.
Pooh’s response was classic. He said that he didn’t know why and that he had been going down stairs that way for so long that he didn’t know there was any other way to do it.
Once Pooh realizes that he can make the decision to do it another way, he will find that he can go down stairs like everyone else. How many of us are like Pooh Bear? We get so stuck in a rut with the things we do and the decisions we make that we don’t realize that there are other alternatives from which we can choose. This is how some of our habits form.