Winnie the Pooh and the Disney Channel, a successful combination for over 15 years, are about to celebrate with a fresh spin in the Hundred Acre Woods. Based on the classic A. A. Milne books that first introduced Pooh in 1926, The Book of Pooh is an all-new 26-episode series developed by New York-based Mitchell Kriegman, produced by his company Shadow Projects, and set to premiere in January 2001.
Previous Pooh adventures have been adapted as both traditional drawn animation and live series with actors in full-size costumes, but the new Pooh is produced using ancient puppetry combined with state-of-the-art computer-generated virtual sets. Executive producer and show developer Kriegman (Bear In The Big Blue House, Clarissa Explains It All) will employ a 300-year-old Indonesian puppetry style called ‘boon raku,’ which requires three puppeteers to ‘emote’ each character. ‘We’ve rethought every aspect of shooting puppets for television,’ boasts Kriegman. The character action is composited against 3-D sets created by Entertainment Design Workshop, a New York-based leader in virtual set technology. Although no actual budget figures were released, the technique is said to come in at less than a cel-animated series.
‘I don’t see how you could compete with the cel-animation that has been done on Pooh-it’s classic,’ Kriegman explains. ‘Our goal was to find some way to get to the very core of the classic property. Winnie is a stuffed animal come to life, and puppets made the most sense in revisualizing the show.’ The show will debut as part of the channel’s Emmy-winning Playhouse Disney preschool block.