Disney’s magical new stage musical Winnie the Pooh will bounce into Blackpool Grand Theatre this summer featuring incredible life-size puppetry of all your favourite friends from Hundred Acre Wood. It’s a sensational sweet treat for all the family!

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, an exciting new adventure is about to happen… 

A.A. Milne’s beloved characters Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and all their friends are getting ready to take a trip to the seaside to appear live on stage at Blackpool Grand Theatre in a beautifully crafted new musical from Monday 14 to Wednesday 16 August.

This enchanting new stage adaptation is told through the eyes of the unforgettable characters that have played iconic roles in the lives of children for generations and brings exciting new stories for Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Owl and Tigger too though stunning life-size puppetry!

"We didn't realise we were making memories; we just knew we were having fun." - Winnie the Pooh

The musical stage adaptation of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh broke box office records for the biggest-ever advance sales and was met with rave reviews when it opened in New York in 2021. Creator and director Jonathan Rockefeller (whose spectacular puppetry appears in the acclaimed productions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show and Paddington Gets in a Jam) promises: “It’s everything you know and love about Winnie the Pooh.” Avoiding spoilers about the impressive staging, the acclaimed family entertainment creator added: “You’ll really feel part of the Hundred Acre Wood from the moment you walk into the theatre. There’ll be characters and vignettes you’re familiar with - but in a new adventure.”

Presented by Jonathan’s Rockefeller Productions in partnership with ROYO and Disney Theatrical Productions, Disney’s Winnie the Pooh also includes such familiar songs as Winnie the Pooh, A Rather Blustery Day and The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers, which were written by multiple Grammy Awards winners Robert and Richard Sherman for various animated featurettes and anthologies. It also has some songs by author A.A. Milne and an original score by Nate Edmondson, a longtime collaborator of Rockefeller.

In a brand new story inspired by the beloved books by A. A. Milne and the classic Disney featurettes, Pooh meets his best friend Christopher Robin every day for honey after breakfast. But then one day, Christopher isn’t there and Pooh has to fend for himself and find some honey. Along the way, he encounters the likes of Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Tigger too…

Created by a talented team of artists, designers, patternmakers, builders, welders and fabricators, the characters are rendered as life-sized puppets that the actor-puppeteers operate themselves. “The puppets are so tactile” Jonathan says. “They’re like giant articulated plush toys. The puppeteers in some ways are like Christopher Robin in that they play with the characters and make these stuffed animals come to life.

“What’s wonderful is that we’ve been able to take A.A. Milne’s brilliant stories, Disney’s great animated featurettes and fantastic songs, and mix it all up into a new show. So even if you are incredibly familiar with all those aspects, it’s all in a completely new context. We’re paying respect to the author, the animators and the Sherman Brothers songs but putting our own spin on it.”

London-born Milne first chronicled the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin (named after his son Christopher Robin Milne) in book form in 1926. He came up with the fictional Hundred Acre Wood in homage to Five Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, where he would often take his son for walks.

The naive, friendly, thoughtful bear and his colourful friends featured in the books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner as well as in Milne’s poetry collections When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Illustrated by E. H. Shepard, they went on to sell 50 million copies.

Disney acquired the theatrical rights to the stories in 1961, producing three featurettes which were eventually incorporated into the 1977 full-length film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disney’s Winnie the Pooh has since become one of the best-loved and most successful franchises in entertainment history.

Now, Jonathan has embraced the challenge of re-imagining Winnie the Pooh for theatregoers, saying: “I first saw the cartoons before I was able to read, then as I grew older, I really enjoyed reading the stories. To this day, they remain some of the best pieces of literature and the Disney animations are wonderful, so it’s been a challenge and an honour to bring these characters to the stage. I’m especially excited for him to be back home again, on the London stage and stages around the country. It’s going to be fantastic to present Pooh in his homeland.”

As for what qualities the performers need to possess for Winnie the Pooh, Jonathan notes: “All the puppeteers, not just the ones playing Pooh, have to be really talented at nuancing the characters and making sure they convey emotions, thoughts and feelings. The performers are essentially athletes. There’s Tigger with all his bouncing energy and Pooh being brought to life as a very large puppet. Then there’s the fact that because of the Disney cartoons, we all have a fixed notion of what he sounds like, so one of the biggest challenges for the actor playing Pooh is the fact that not only do they have to be a brilliant puppeteer and an athlete, they also have to capture the spirit of the voice that we know and love.”

The huge task of capturing the beloved bear’s movements, emotions and voice on his visit to Blackpool Grand falls to Benjamin Durham, a 23-year-old ArtsEd graduate who hails from Stoke-on-Trent. The much-loved characters of Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo will be brought to life by an ensemble of performers, including Laura Bacon (Britain’s Got Talent, Star Wars), Harry Boyd (The Play That Goes Wrong, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story), Alex Cardall (Evita, The Osmonds: A New Musical), Chloe Gentles (Mamma Mia!, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Lottie Grogan (Smurfs Save Spring: The Musical, The Lips for Puppets with Guys) and Robbie Noonan (Avenue Q UK Tour, Jack and the Beanstalk).

Whilst in training Benjamin’s credits included Ragtime, Cats and She Loves Me, and since graduating he was in the ensemble of Young Frankenstein in Frankfurt. This is his first professional leading role. “And what a brilliant role it is,” Benjamin enthuses. “He’s such an iconic character so these are big shoes - or big paws - to fill but I’m excited.” He smiles. “A little bit nervous, too, of course but mostly I’m excited.”

Like Rockefeller, the young actor also grew up with the AA Milne stories and Disney cartoons. “And my mum even had a Winnie the Pooh mug. I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has met this little bear with, as he himself claims, very little brain but a very big heart. In the show, that’s very much how he is portrayed. You see the joy and the beauty of the world he lives in, in Hundred Acre Wood, and life there through the lens of his sweetness, kindness, generosity and love.”

Can he relate to the character in any way? “Hopefully I have a bigger brain,” Benjamin laughs, “but his kindness and wanting to help other people is something I try to emulate in my life. I don’t know if I do it as well as the little bear does but I try my best.”

Does puppeteering Pooh present any challenges? “It’s a physical challenge because the puppet is pretty big but it’s a really interesting way of telling the story and bringing the character to life. There’s a certain level of physicality and stamina that’s required, so it’s about looking after yourself, stretching, working hard and being sure to take breaks during rehearsals.”

Not only is this his first leading role, it’s also his first time touring in a show. “Again, it’s exciting and I can’t wait to take it to different audiences in different parts of the country. The themes are universal wherever you go. I hope audiences will take the themes of kindness and generosity to their hearts and the love that Pooh has for his friends. In the first scene in our show, he says to Piglet ‘It’s a good thing to be different, otherwise we’d probably all be the same’ and that theme of just being yourself is also so relatable now.”

The actor is interested to note that Milne wrote the stories for his son Christopher after serving in the Army in the First World War. “The country was reeling from something no-one had been through before and was still readjusting to some sort of normality again. The stories were about stripping everything back to the concepts of kindness and generosity, which is a message that resonates just as much today.” 

Rockefeller agrees, adding of why tales about Winnie the Pooh are still so beloved: “I think it’s because the characters and the stories tap into the child in all of us. They’re just finding their way and exploring the world, and a lot of what happens comes from their misunderstandings or trying to wrap their heads around things. The world that A.A. Milne created is all about imagination and the wordplay he created is something we have a lot of fun with in the show.”

It is, he feels, the perfect family show. “It’s not just for kids. In New York, we saw many adults coming along to see it by themselves. What’s great about the show is that it’s accessible on so many different levels. Very young children will love it, while older children will enjoy the jokes and the wordplay and for adults it’s like being wrapped up in that wonderful nostalgia that we all have for these characters. It’s an experience of complete joy. It’s such a heartwarming show and that’s something which in today’s world we all need.”

"I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Book your seats now for Disney’s Winnie the Pooh at Blackpool Grand Theatre and find out!

Disney’s Winnie the Pooh is at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Monday 14 August to Wednesday 16 August 2023.

Visit BlackpoolGrand.co.uk or call the box office on 01253 290 190 for bookings and further information.


Disney’s Winnie the Pooh – Mon 14 Aug to Wed 16 Aug 2023. Times vary

Grand Theatre, 33 Church Street, Blackpool FY1 1HT

Box Office 01253 290 190


Facebook - @blackpoolgrand

Twitter - @Grand_Theatre

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