- Disney’s decision not to sue Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey shows how significant the movie is and challenges their reputation for protecting their intellectual property.
- The existence of the movie is important because it demonstrates that filmmakers can use children’s characters in horror without fear of being sued, opening the way for more experimentation in this genre.
- Although Disney could have shut down the production without grounds, the low-budget film’s ability to avoid legal action diminishes concerns about using established characters in new and unconventional ways.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey director Rhys Frake-Waterfield is still surprised Disney didn’t sue the production as he believes the massive company could’ve done it if it wanted to. Franke-Waterfield’s slasher movie turned A. A. Milne’s beloved children’s character, Winnie-the-Pooh, into a serial killer. While Milne and Disney had exclusively held the rights to Pooh for years, all the Winnie-the-Pooh characters entered the public domain in 2022, allowing Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey to be made. While the slasher movie was panned by critics, it was a commercial success, netting a sequel order.
In an interview with IndireWire, Frake-Waterfield expressed shock that the now-streaming Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey wasn’t sued by Disney. Given that the characters are now in the public domain, Disney can’t stop people from using the characters in original productions, but the writer/director acknowledges that the House of Mouse could’ve shut the production down should they have felt it hurt their family-friendly version of the brand. Check out his statement below:
If they wanted to, Disney could have shut us down. Like, the company is so f—-ng massive, they could have just gone — even if they had no grounds for it — “Well, we’re suing you, and we’re just gonna throw the book at you. And we’re just gonna tie you up legally. And this will not go out there.” So there was that, that risk that even if we did everything 100%, they could just intentionally be litigators. But they didn’t.
What Does Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey’s Existence Mean?
Frake-Waterfield’s shock at Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey being able to exist without being sued shows how big the film really is. After all, Disney has always been notoriously protective of its intellectual property (IP) and isn’t afraid to dole out copyright and trademark infringement suits and notices to individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, there were a lot of legal aspects to navigate. Everything Milne created is fair game, but anything Disney specifically added to the characters isn’t. Hence, the crew had to be wary of, for example, using the same voices for Piglet and Pooh that Disney did.
Meanwhile, Frake-Waterfield is right that Disney likely could’ve shut Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey down without grounds. Even if its argument wouldn’t hold in court, threatening an indie movie with a budget of $100,000 with potential legal expenses would be an effective way to get them to back down. Even though the low-budget project had many flaws, its existence is pretty significant. A lot of Disney’s characters aren’t original creations from the company, while even Mickey Mouse will be entering the public domain soon. Meanwhile, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey dissipates some of the fear of filmmakers using these characters.
This is why Frake-Waterfield is preparing to develop a whole shared universe of horror takes on beloved children’s characters. Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey 2 is happening, and there are plans for horror twists Bambi: The Reckoning and Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare. It’s only a matter of time before more filmmakers start experimenting in this genre. These films will still need to tread carefully legally, but filmmakers can now rest assured that it is possible for these films to exist. Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey‘s ability to avoid being sued may help expand this phenomenon of using children’s characters in horror.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey 2