There are perhaps very few people, the world over, both children and adults, who are unfamiliar with A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. Just the mention of the name, Winnie the Pooh, causes the theme song to play in a person’s head on eternal repeat.
The stories of Winnie the Pooh, that loveable, “forever in my heart” friend of Christopher Robin, who lives in Hundred Acre Wood along with his other delightful friends, are timeless and have captivated the hearts of millions. Although Pooh often refers to himself as a “bear of very little brain,” he is quite the philosopher. His ageless quips such as, “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it” are sprinkled with golden nuggets of wisdom and valuable life lessons.
As you have read the stories or watched the movies of the wonderful adventures of Pooh and his amazing friends, did you realize that Mormons have played a significant role in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh productions over the past few decades? Here are a few fascinating Mormon connections to that loveable “Silly Old Bear.”
Brady Bluhm, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints played the voice of Christopher Robin in three Winnie the Pooh animated films in the 1990s. Born on 6 July 1983, Bluhm 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 was also known for his 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 full-time mission for the Church in Concepción, Chile. He married his wife, Abbie, in 2010.
Frank Kenneth “Ken” Sansom, also a member of the Church, was the voice of Rabbit in the television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, as well as, several Winnie the Pooh movies from 1988 to 2010.
Born on 2 April 1927, Samson 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 was also a well-known actor and performed in roles 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. Additionally, he entertained the troops during the Korean War with the United Service Organizations (USO). He died on 8 October 2012, due to complications following a stroke.
The world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir also had the opportunity to perform with Winnie the Pooh and several other Disney characters. According to the June 1989 Ensign, the choir filmed four short concerts at Disney World’s Epcot Center on 18 March 1989, with one of the performances including 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.”
Richard Rich, an LDS animated film director, was the assistant director of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (1974), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Interesting to note, the title Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too is a play on the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” which was made famous during the 1840 U.S. presidential election.
Born in 1951, Rich became the youngest animation director in the history of Disney during his employment. He was also an assistant director on the Disney animated films Robin Hood (1973), The Rescuers (1977), and Pete’s Dragon (1977). He also directed The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985). He later founded his own animation studio and directed The Swan Princess (1994) and four sequels.
According to Deseret News, Taylor pitched the idea for the live -action Winnie the Pooh film over a decade ago, in 2003. In an interview with the Deseret News, he commented, “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. 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?’” Although the studio liked the idea, other ongoing animation projects beat it out at the time. In 2014, when Taylor became a producer at Disney, the idea was refreshed.
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).
The adventures of Winnie the Pooh are classic and his wit and charm will live on in the hearts of people, young and old, for ages to come. In the words of that loveable, “Silly Old Bear,” “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” As we go about our daily lives, let us remember Pooh’s wise counsel, “You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes” and “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Finally, let us abide by the same promise that Christopher Robin asked of his beloved friend, Pooh, when he said, “Promise me that you will always remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”