The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Winnie the Pooh stars in an R-rated slasher movie


The Hundred Acre Wood has seen some pretty unsettling things over the years. A honey jar shortage. Rather blustery days. The omnipresen­t threat of a Heffalump.

But in “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” a new microbudge­t Rrated horror film, Pooh wades into far darker territory than even Eeyore could have ever imagined. After 95 years of saying things like “A hug is always the right size,” Pooh — newly freed from copyright — is now violently terrorizin­g a remote house of young women.

Countless cherished characters have passed into public domain before, but perhaps never so abruptly and savagely as Pooh.

Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Eeyore and Christophe­r Robin all became public domain on January 1 last year when the copyright on A.A. Milne's 1926 book, “Winnie-thePooh,” with illustrati­ons by E.H. Shepard, expired. Just a year later, Pooh and Piglet can now be found on a murderous rampage in nationwide movie theaters — a head-spinning developmen­t that's happened faster than a bear could say “Oh, bother.”

Depending on how you look at it, “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” is either a crass way to capitalize on a beloved bear or an ingenious bit of independen­t filmmaking foresight. Either way, it's probably a harbinger of what's to come.

In the next 10 years, some of the most iconic characters in pop culture — including Bugs Bunny, Batman and Superman — will pass into public domain, or at least their most early incarnatio­ns. Some elements of Pooh are still off-limits, like his red shirt, since they apply to later interpreta­tions. Tigger, who debuted in 1928's “The House at Pooh Corner,” isn't public until 2024.

Many have next Jan. 1 circled. That's when the original version of Mickey Mouse, from “Steamboat Willie,” becomes public domain. It will be open on season on the face of the Walt Disney Co. — or at least that early whistling variety of Mickey.

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