Winnie the Pooh: the deforested edition is a reimagining of the AA Milne classic created by the toilet paper company Who Gives A Crap.
There is only one striking difference: there are no trees.
The Hundred Acre Wood? Disappeared.
Piglet’s “house in the middle of a beech” is no longer “grandiose”.
Six pines are six pine stumps.
Yes, this is imaginative PR (a free eBook is available from the Who Gives A Crap website; a hardcover was available for purchase but is now out of print). But company co-founder Danny Alexander said the goal was to raise awareness about deforestation. Who Gives A Crap prides itself on “creating toilet paper from 100% recycled paper or bamboo,” he said.
Without trees, Winnie the Pooh cannot fall from the branches in his quest for honey. Christopher Robin cannot climb the big oak tree. Owl’s house at The Chestnuts is barely there.
These sad situations are “kind of relatable,” Alexander said.
Deforestation destroys ecosystems. “Animals and plants are losing habitats, bare lands are becoming unstable,” said Rebecca Hersher, a reporter on NPR’s Climate Desk. “But deforestation also contributes to climate change because forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
As the UN says, “forests are essential to life on earth”.
Alexander said Who Gives A Crap tried to spread the message that “more than a million trees are cut down every day just to make traditional toilet paper,” according to a study commissioned by the company.
“But it’s a difficult message to get across and really difficult to imagine,” he said.
Who better to help with this effort than an adorable, world-famous bear?
“It’s just an extremely powerful reuse of the original Winnie the Pooh book to show that even a bear ‘with very little brains’ could appreciate the impacts of deforestation,” said Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Realm at Duke University.
Reimagine — or ruin — emblematic stories?
Once artistic works fall into the public domain, they are no longer protected by copyright law. They belong to the public. Other creators are free to reinvent them as they see fit.
Frozen from the fairy tale Snow Queen. Copperhead Demon is an adaptation of David Copperfield. “Gatsby the magnificent Overabundance”, we read in a New York Times title of an article on all adaptations of this novel. Pride and PrejudiceShakespeare, Greek myths…creativity breeds creativity, but not all of them are worthy of the original.
As for Winnie the Pooh, the story was made into a slasher film that “no one asked for”, according to Fatherly and was parodied by Ryan Reynolds in a commercial for Mint Mobile.
This bear’s shirt is purple
The original from 1926 Winnie the Pooh EH Shepard’s illustrations were black and white. Pooh first appeared in a red shirt in the early 1930s. This and other colorized versions are not yet in the public domain.
Writer Tim ‘he’s naked, your cub is free.’
Tensie Whelan, founding director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, is tired of stories that “forest products companies are the bad guys.” Although some of them “are absolutely destructive,” she said, “most forest products companies today are doing it in a much more sustainable way.”
She says Who Gives A Crap is about “taking something relatively complex” and “then manipulating kids into reacting emotionally using this wonderful story, you know, in order to sell their product.”
“100% recycled paper always comes from trees,” she emphasized. Recycled paper operations also rely on burning fossil fuels, which increases greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Whelan also worries that the tone is too dark for children. “We want kids to see the benefits and opportunities and not scare them too much.”
What would Pooh think?
Alexander, the company’s co-founder, admitted that seeing images of Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin and the rest of the characters living in a world without trees was “uncomfortable and shocking.”
Alexandre wants it Deforested edition to “spark a conversation between parents and children…about the impact of our daily habits on the environment and how we can all be part of the solution.”
At first, he said, he and his Who Gives A Crap colleagues struggled with altering such a beloved character, but “ultimately the message you’re trying to get across here is really powerful and poses a challenge, and I think it sort of fits the message. He said they decided not to contact the AA Milne estate about their new release.
“The way we thought about it is really: What would Winnie the Pooh think? And from our perspective…we think he would be proud of it and we think he would be OK with it.”
The literary agency of AA Milne and EH Shepard declined NPR’s request for comment.
Next year, Mickey Mouse enters the public domain. We could imagine all sorts of dark scenarios in which he could appear.
But we won’t. Disney will likely fight to keep its famous characters under its brand.
This story was edited by Meghan Sullivan And Jennifer Vanasco with help from NPR’s Climate Desk.