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Deadly Pooh, Sad Barney: Why is Hollywood destroying everyone we love?

From Barney the Dinosaur to Winnie the Pooh, film directors are putting dark spins on childhood classics

Ah, childhood memories! What bliss! Long summer days spent playing hide-and-seek in the park; ice cream vans and lemonade stands; building blanket forts over at a friend’s place and hiding from your parents when it’s time to go home. 

Given everything that’s happening in the world right now (see: climate disaster, cost of living crisis, the Tories) you would be forgiven for thinking that everything is going downhill. Perhaps you find yourself playing old Nintendo games, or scrawling through eBay to find second-hand Tamagotchis, the nostalgic pull of childhood acting as a reminder of happier times.

Despite this, Hollywood directors are putting sinister spins on childhood classics. Earlier this week, Daniel Kaluuya confirmed the go-ahead for his “heartbreaking” take on Barney the dinosaur, arguably one of the most wholesome 90s and 00s children’s shows. “Barney taught us, ‘I love you, you love me. Won’t you say you love me too?’ That’s one of the first songs I remember, and what happens when that isn’t true? I thought that was really heartbreaking,” he said in a 2020 interview with EW

Elsewhere, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie epic follows a doll who’s expelled from Barbieland for “not being perfect enough”. If the first-look images are anything to go by, the Ladybird director’s Barbie Dream World looks like it’ll be all peroxide blonde hair, stonewash denim and spray tans, right? Well, not exactly. Ryan Gosling revealed last week that his character Ken is going through some serious life problems – "Ken's got no money, he's got no job, he's got no car, he's got no house. He's going through some stuff," he said, begging the question: is life in plastic really fantastic?

Perhaps the most cursed example, however, is Rhys Waterfield’s Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, a horrifying murderous twist on the beloved bear. With the tagline “this ain’t no bedtime story”, the plot follows Pooh and Piglet as murderous villains going on a rampage after being abandoned by a college-bound Christopher Robin. "Christopher Robin is pulled away from them, and he’s not [given] them food, it’s made Pooh and Piglet’s life quite difficult,” said Waterfield.

With first-look images including a mallet-wielding Pooh bear, it’s nightmarish stuff – even more so when you find out that composer Andrew Scott Bell created a violin stuffed with living bees to create the score. “They’re a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey,” he added.

With all the chaos happening in the world right now, the decision to insert dark and twisted backstories onto childhood favourites feels a bit… much. Those who grew up in the 90s and 00s already feel let down by the empty promises of adulthood. OK there’s freedom, but why are the energy bills so high? And why am I living in a flatshare with five housemates and no living room? If the past few years’ obsession with nostalgia has taught us anything, it’s that people want to escape reality. So, leave our childhood favourites out of it, please?