November 19, 2010


Walt Disney is preparing a feature length movie of Winnie the Pooh which will be released shortly. The artwork will be hand colored, the way the studio worked before computer animation. The intent is to preserve the film’s antique quality but the story is new, not one written by A. A. Milne.

Disney has been inventing Winnie the Pooh adventures for some time. I suppose the company has made some arrangement with the Milne estate or maybe Winnie is in the public domain. I don’t know. Nonetheless, I consider their new story lines for this well-loved character tantamount to grave robbing.

Disney is not the sole offender in this practice of stealing cherished characters and making them their own. Recently PBS ran a new mystery series about a young Sherlock Holmes who uses computers and cell phones as he solves crime in the twenty-first century. I admit the series is well done, yet I can’t help objecting to “reincarnations” like this. The producers of these entertainments are cowards, preferring to profit from old ideas that are commercially proven rather than encourage the creation of new characters. Make Jane Austen a vampire hunter and viola, a classic heroine becomes hip. 

Perhaps I’m being a hypocrite to raise this complaint. Haven’t I admitted the revised Sherlock Holmes was well done? Didn’t I confess to watching the entire series? But my objection isn’t that these cloned characters aren’t entertaining. My objection is that reinventions defile the original creation — its time, settings and élan.   

I can’t imagine how Conan Doyle might react to PBS’ recent version of Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps he’d be flattered to discover his detective has lived so long and in so many iterations. Perhaps Jane Austen would think me prudish. I only know  if one of my characters, Victorine Ellsworth from “Gothic Spring or Oliver Larson from “Heart Land  were resurrected a 100 years hence and forced by some revisionist to live in spacesuits on the planet Zerbe, I would rise from my grave and give that pillager the scare of his life.