01 October 2009

Winnie the Pooh gets an update

Okay, I'll admit it: I'm not a huge fan of Pooh. I kind of like Piglet, and Eeyore is sort of amusing, but when I tried to read the original Pooh books on my own as a child, there was no connection. Perhaps I've been stunted as a person, but there you have it.

All the same, I found myself peeved and protective when I read on the BBC website that a new character, Lottie the Otter, has been created for the first "original" Pooh story since Milne stopped writing them himself. I'm pretty sure I understand why the creation of a new character was deemed necessary, why these "timeless and beloved characters" couldn't be trusted to pull in new audiences on their own. Like the sudden increase in girly trains in the Sodor Roundhouse, marketers (may I blame marketers here?) and creative controllers of these established franchises need those new audiences, otherwise why bother? They probably want to be seen as updaters, too, and updating means inserting female characters were there weren't any. As I try and think back to the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood, the only girl character I can remember is Kanga, and she was pretty much resigned to wearing an apron and hopping after Roo. Admittedly not much of a modern character for today's little princesses.

So how does Lottie stack up? Well, according to the article she is described as "feisty," which makes sense; why go through the bother of creating a new character and then have her be sedate? She likes cricket. What ho! and all that. She is a stickler for etiquette. Okay......no mommy issues there, right? But, so we absolutely, positively know she's the new girl character, she's wearing pearls. Now, perhaps my perspective is a bit colored at the moment because I am reading Packaging Girlhood, in which the authors berate the trend of accessorizing young girls at every turn--usually with a handbag, although that just would not be practical at all when trying to hit a googly. Or perhaps it's because I attended a Southern women's college, at which the running joke--certainly among us hip artistic types--was that it was the place where pearls went with everything: jeans, sweats, shorts--everything. Whatever--the pearls really annoy me.

What it comes down to, at least for me, is this: if the original product wasn't good enough on its own, leave it to the original fans to love as it was. Pooh's devotees will have the requisite passion and enthusiasm to introduce the books to new audiences without the aid of faux modern girl characters. Lottie the Otter, even in the eyes of this non-Pooh fan, you've got some big shoes to fill if you want to claim your place in the Hundred Acre Wood.


Sam said...

I have to agree with you. And, from an artistic point of view, whoever drew Lottie certainly is no E.H. Shepard. The arms in particular are a little off, and the line work looks like a bad copy of the original style. I'm not a big Pooh fan myself, either, but this does seem like a pretty ill-advised attempt by marketers.

Kara Schaff Dean said...

Thanks for the comment, Sam. "Reintroducing" classics, for children or adults (all those classics rewritten from a minor character's P.O.V--argh!)is a pet peeve of mine. Whenever I see news like this I automatically have low expectations. Now, Paddington Bear made a return last year, but at least the book was written by Michael Bond himself. Perhaps the Milne estate is trying to regain control of the Pooh image from Disney--I don't know. Whatever they are up to, it irks me!

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