A little over one hundred years ago, ZSL London Zoo welcomed one of its most famous residents; a black American bear named Winnipeg – who was to become the most famous bear in the world.
The mascot for a Canadian regiment fighting in the First World War, Winnipeg, nicknamed Winnie, was a black bear gifted to ZSL London Zoo at the start of World War One.
Winnie was indeed a lover of honey but unlike the bear in the famous Winnie-the-Pooh books, Winnie was in fact a female and not a male bear. She had a soft nature and enjoyed human company after being hand reared following the death of her mother.
A well-loved character, Winnie famously enjoyed the attention she got from visitors, one of whom was beloved children's author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, whose fondness for the bear was immortalised in the classic tales.
Today (29 September 2017) new release ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’, from Fox Searchlight Pictures sees the story of Winnie-the-Pooh come to life on the big screen. The film gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), and how their visits to ZSL London Zoo influenced the creation of the iconic tales.
ZSL’s Zoological Director, Professor David Field said, “Winnipeg the bear moved to ZSL London Zoo on 9 December 1914 after she was rescued by Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, a Canadian soldier. Winnie was a very tame bear and she was loved for her calm gentle nature and met many Zoo visitors, one of which was from the young Christopher Robin.
“Just as the animals we care for today inspire our visitors to love and look after wildlife, Winnie inspired A.A Milne and his son Christopher – and through his books, she continues to engage children around the world.
“We were delighted to be a part of this film, and the beautiful scenes shot at ZSL London Zoo, celebrate our proud part in the story of arguably the world’s most famous bear.”
In the film, Christopher Robin, his father A.A. Milne, mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War.
Eagle-eyed fans will spot scenes filmed at ZSL London Zoo where Christopher Robin enjoyed numerous visits as a child and became enthralled with Winnie the bear.
Extracts of ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ were brought to life at ZSL London Zoo, following in the footsteps of Christopher Robin himself. Scenes include some exhibits and buildings which are still in use today, as they were when Christopher Robin visited in the 1920s.
The Mappin terraces, and the exhibit often referred to as ‘bear mountain’ were built in 1913 and are where Christopher Robin first met Winnie. Now adapted to house ZSL London Zoo’s Australian species in an exhibit called the Outback, the terraces still retain some of their original features.
The film also highlights ‘three island pond’; built in 1832 it is the oldest exhibit at ZSL London Zoo, and is today home to flamingos and pelicans. ZSL London Zoo’s famous giraffe house, built in 1836, also features in the film, and is the only exhibit still used for its original purpose, and continues to be used by zoo architects as a template for the ideal giraffe habitat.
Alongside ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’, ZSL London Zoo has been used for various feature films, televisions series’, documentaries, commercials, photo shoots, as well as the animals including:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
- About a Boy
- The Vice
- American Werewolf in London
- David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities
Funds raised from commercial filming help international conservation charity ZSL continue its global work for wildlife. To find out more about filming at ZSL locations visit zsl.org/filming.