How can Winnie the Pooh be made a killer in 'Blood and Honey'? The public domain, explained

Oh, bother.

Just when you thought 2022 couldn't get weirder, the slasher movie "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey" dropped its first blood-filled trailer in August. Drop the mic, or the bloody sledgehammer.

The horror film features a deranged version of the honey- and hug-loving Pooh Bear, along with best friend Piglet, the very-much-alive stuffed animals depicted in author A.A. Milne's beloved children's books.

Only in "Blood and Honey,"  Pooh is silent, wielding knives and chloroform, while angrily seeking revenge against his onetime human BFF (best friend forever) Christopher Robin (and some random woman in a hot tub, this being a cheesy slasher film, after all).

How is it even possible that this is happening to the silly old bear who famously said "A hug is always the right size"? And will Disney, which acquired the rights to the Pooh characters back in 1961, be out for blood?

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What is 'Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey' based on?

The movie is (very) loosely based on Milne's famous characters.

Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield, who also wrote and co-produced the film, told Variety in May that “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” is a horror film starring Pooh and Piglet as "the main villains going on a rampage" after being abandoned by a college-bound Christopher Robin. While Robin was away at school, the two once-lovable pals turned "feral" in their quest for food and survival. "It’s made Pooh and Piglet’s life quite difficult," Frake-Waterfield said.

The film was shot in 10 days in England, not far from Ashdown Forest, the inspiration for Milne’s imaginary Hundred Acre Wood in the "Winnie the Pooh" stories.

A "Blood and Honey" poster issued last month carried the warning, "This ain't no bedtime story."

A release date for the film hasn't been announced.

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Is 'Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey' from Disney?

Pooh and Piglet break bad in "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey."
Pooh and Piglet break bad in "Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey."

Disney isn't involved; Jagged Edge Productions made the film and ITN Studios will distribute it.

So how, in the name of sweet honey, is this possible? Because Pooh and Piglet, introduced in the 1926 book "Winnie-the-Pooh," entered the public domain in 2022.

U.S. copyright law is usually limited to the life of the author, plus 70 years. The Copyright Term Extension Act, implemented in 1998, protects corporate authorship rights for 95 years from the first publication or 120 years after its creation, whichever ends sooner.

Is Disney losing Winnie the Pooh?

No. Disney’s Pooh is still protected, but the company no longer has an exclusive right to Milne’s work.

The "Blood and Honey" producers had to be careful to not step too close to Disney's version. While the movie character's mask is clearly Disney Pooh, the bear has swapped his famed red shirt for a lumberjack shirt and Piglet dons all black.

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How does Walt Disney feel about this?

Tigger (from left), Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore will still be Disney characters. But Disney won't have them exclusively.
Tigger (from left), Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore will still be Disney characters. But Disney won't have them exclusively.

The House of the Mouse has not commented on the film and bloody outcry.

But Winnie the Pooh is among the most valuable media franchises in the world, accumulating more than $80 billion through the years, putting it on par with Mickey Mouse, according to The Motley Fool. The investing advice company estimates that Pooh and friends generate $3 billion to $6 billion annually for Disney.

"Disney is going to lose millions and a valuable copyright that it’s been able to leverage on all sorts of merchandise. But it’s had protection for years and has been granted term extensions," Donald P. Harris, associate dean for academic affairs at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, told the university's website.

Is Tigger spared in this bloodbath?

The stuff of nightmares: Pooh as a killer bear.
The stuff of nightmares: Pooh as a killer bear.

Tigger, the rambunctious tiger who first appeared in Milne's works in 1928, is still protected by copyright. So he won't appear in "Blood and Honey." But brace yourself: The trailer also features a crude, bloody grave for poor old Eeyore, a victim of this upside-down world.

Will the righteous outcry stop the release of 'Blood and Honey'?

Not a chance. The film's producers are reaping the benefits of a massive publicity windfall.

Frake-Waterfield told Variety that the filmmakers are rushing to cash in while the attention is there.

"Because of all the press and stuff, we’re just going to start expediting the edit and getting it through post-production as fast as we can," he said, vowing to make "sure it’s still good. It’s gonna be a high priority."

Christmas slasher 'The Mean One' takes page from 'Blood and Honey'

What else will the Grinch (seen here in the 1966 animated Dr. Seuss TV special) carve up for Christmas?
What else will the Grinch (seen here in the 1966 animated Dr. Seuss TV special) carve up for Christmas?

Winnie the Pooh isn't the only beloved childhood icon getting the horror film treatment.

"The Mean One" serves a macabre parody of the Dr. Seuss character Grinch, the green-haired beast and holiday curmudgeon popularized in the 1957 children's book, and later 1966 TV film, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"

Directed by Steven LaMorte, "The Mean One" keeps the signature grouchiness of the Grinch, with the "green-skinned grump ... living on a mountain high above the festive small town of Newville, despising the holiday season," according to a news release on LaMorte's website.

The sinister twist is that The Mean One "butchered" the parents of Cindy You-Know-Who, a play on "Grinch" protagonist Cindy Lou Who, two decades ago. Cindy returns to "seek closure" for her parents' death, only to find The Mean One hasn't lost his murderous thirst, or urge "to carve the roast beast."

The film, set for a Dec. 15 release, stars "Terrifier 2" star David Howard Thornton as The Mean One and "The Sandra West Diaries" actress Krystle Martin as Cindy You-Know-Who.

But wait, there's more: Bambi is also getting his own horror movie

Remember how Bambi’s mom tragically dies in Disney’s 1942 animated movie? Yeah, it’s about to get a lot more traumatizing.

Director Scott Jeffrey ("The Curse of Humpty Dumpty," “The Bad Nun”) is working on a slasher version of Felix Salten's nearly 100-year-old “Bambi” novel.

Jeffrey promises an “incredibly dark retelling” of the tale. "Bambi will be a vicious killing machine that lurks in the wilderness,” he tells Dread Central. “Prepare for Bambi on rabies!"

The film, titled “Bambi: The Reckoning,” is inspired by the Netflix movie "The Ritual," which follows four men who encounter a dreadful creature in a mysterious forest while on a hiking trip.

Jeffrey is teaming up with Frake-Waterfield for the movie, which has already began production, according to IMDB.

Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Kim Willis, Wyatte Grantham-Philips and Edward Segarra, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey' film can be blamed on public domain