Winnie the Pooh spanked by Polish council for not wearing pants

Some town councillors in Poland don't want beloved storybook character Winnie the Pooh as a playground mascot.

Storybook bear, named after Winnipeg, called 'wholly inappropriate for children'

Winnie the Pooh spanked by Polish council for not wearing pants

9 years ago
Duration 2:11
Some town councillors in Poland don't want beloved storybook character Winnie the Pooh as a playground mascot.

Some town councillors in Poland don't want beloved storybook character Winnie the Pooh as a playground mascot.

The so-called "bear of very little brain" apparently doesn't have enough clothes.

The tubby little cubby, based on an actual bear named after Winnipeg, was suggested at a meeting of the council in Tuszyn, a small town in central Poland, to be the face of a new public playground, according to media reports in the United Kingdom.

Some councillors in the Polish town of Tuszyn say Winnie the Pooh’s lack of clothing makes him an 'inappropriate' mascot for a new playground. (Disney)
That prompted anger from some councillors, who called Pooh "inappropriate."

“The problem with that bear is it doesn’t have a complete wardrobe,” said Coun. Ryszard Cichy.

“It is half naked, which is wholly inappropriate for children. [Poland’s fictional bear] is dressed from head to toe, unlike Pooh who is only dressed from the waist up."

It was suggested that the playground be named after Mis Uszatek, a Polish children's character — also a bear — that is fully dressed.

The meeting of officials was sneakily recorded by a councillor and leaked to local press, according to the Croatian Times.

Pooh made his debut in a collection of stories by A.A. Milne in 1926. At that time, he was completely in the buff.

In 1961, when Walt Disney licensed the rights and made a series of cartoon films about him, Pooh was outfitted with his now familiar red shirt.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman offered his own irreverent take on the issue in a statement sent to CBC News on Friday.

"Clearly, Winnie is a cartoon bear who doesn’t wear pants, but I’d like to note that the beloved Disney characters Donald Duck and Chip and Dale (the Rescue Rangers) are also pant-less, Mickey Mouse doesn’t wear a shirt, and Tony the Tiger is nearly nude," he stated. "Should they be banned as well?

"Winnipeg is a tolerant and accepting community, and I hope that Winnie continues to teach children about kindness and friendship for years to come."

'Let's be serious here,' says fashion designer

Winnipeg-based fashion designer Lennard Taylor thinks the debate is silly.

Winnipeg fashion designer Lennard Taylor said he thinks the Pooh bear controversy in Poland is hardly a controversy at all. (Karen Pauls)
"This is a children's character. It's fictional. Come on, let's be serious here," said Taylor. "Let's stop wasting people's time and get into the real things that matter in life."
Author Mary Anne Appleby poses next to a copy of "Winnie the Bear," a book she wrote based on the orphaned female black bear that inspired the Winnie the Pooh character. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

Mary Anne Appleby wrote a book on the black bear Winnie the Pooh's character is based on.

"I think adults arguing about it sends a bad message," said Appleby.

She has theory about how the controversy got started.

"Polish people love Winnie the Pooh, so there's a deep emotional attachment," said Appleby. "I suppose that's what can make something instantly political.

Parents like Lisa Joy don't agree with the Polish town councillors' take on Winnie the Pooh either.

"Richard Scarry, for example, a lot of his characters just wear sweaters and they're all animals," she said, referring to the author of the popular Busytown series and other children's books.

"I think it's silly. I don't think kids really focus on that kind of thing."

Winnipeg illustrator Nyco Rudolph produced sketches of what Winnie the Pooh would look like with full outfits on.

Rudolph said creating gender-based stereotypes about cartoon characters is probably worse for children than a pants-less fictional bear.

"I think it is very important to hear everybody out, but Winnie the Pooh being naked or Bert and Ernie sleeping together in the same bed, things like that, I really don't think anybody's hurting," he said.

"I feel like it's sort of creating controversy when there really doesn't need to be, when it's something that wasn't really an issue before."

The story of Pooh bear

Lt. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and soldier with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, came across an orphaned female bear cub on Aug. 24, 1914.

When his troop's train stopped in White River, Ont., he met a hunter who had shot and killed the bear cub's mother, without whom the cub was almost certain to die.

Colebourn offered the hunter $20 for the cub, whom he named Winnipeg Bear to commemorate the city where he had lived before the war. The name was soon shortened to Winnie.

Winnie accompanied Colebourn to England, where the cub played with Canadian soldiers during their off-hours in their encampment on the Salisbury Plains.

Colebourn later donated Winnie to the London Zoo, where the bear inspired the creation of A.A. Milne's famous children's book character. Winnie died at the zoo in 1934.

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park is home to the Pooh Gallery, which houses a permanent collection of Winnie the Pooh artifacts and memorabilia.

Featured prominently in the gallery is the painting Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Pot by E.H. Shepard, the original illustrator of Milne's series.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, viewed the painting during their visit to Winnipeg in May.

A bronze statue of Colebourn and Winnie is located at the park's nature playground.