Mon, Feb 04, 2019 - Page 4 News List

FEATURE: Peppa back in Beijing’s graces in time for holiday

POPULAR PORKER:Less than 10 months after the British cartoon character Peppa Pig became a target of CCP criticism, she has a starring role in a Chinese film

AFP, BEIJING

A man looks at a Peppa Pig product at a toy store in Beijing on Jan. 25.

Photo: AFP

Roasted as a subversive symbol and chopped from a video streaming Web site in China, it seemed Peppa Pig, the loveable, but imperious British cartoon character, faced a bleak future in the Chinese Communist Party-led country.

However, her popularity has risen unabated, and now just months after state media slammed her as an emblem of the counterculture, she is playing a starring role as the country ushers in the Year of the Pig tomorrow.

A new film titled Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year is being released on the first day of the holiday.

It shows Peppa celebrating Lunar New Year with two new friends — “Jiaozi” (餃子, dumpling) and “Tang yuan” (湯圓, glutinous rice ball) — named after popular delicacies.

The animation, which follows the daily adventures of a bright pink piglet, her brother George and her parents, is hugely popular with Chinese children.

Last year, five-year-old twins Mi Ai (米艾) and Mi Ni (米妮) made a video asking to meet Queen Elizabeth II after seeing their porcine heroine visit her in an episode.

The clip garnered more than 9 million views and made such an impact that the pair were invited for tea by the British ambassador to Beijing and promised a tour of Buckingham Palace.

“It is really fun and the language is easy to understand,” their mother, Bella Zhang, said of the girls’ obsession with the show.

The series was popular with Chinese parents because it teaches “the importance of love and cooperation,” she said.

The cartoon’s focus on family values has resonated with Chinese parents who strictly monitor their children’s TV time, said Li Xin as she bought a Peppa toy for her four-year-old at a Beijing store.

Peppa Pig first broadcast in China in 2015, but in May last year about 30,000 clips of the cartoon were removed from a popular video streaming site, following criticism from state media.

Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated newspapers wrote harsh columns about Peppa Pig being hijacked by gangsters and subversives to create videos that reject mainstream values.

Memes featuring the beloved children’s character had also started to take on dark undertones at the time, occasionally veering into violent or pornographic territory.

“No matter how gangster Peppa Pig becomes, it cannot be allowed to destroy children’s youth [or] break rules,” the People’s Daily said in an editorial in April last year.

The shows have been watched about 60 billion times on China’s largest video streaming sites since it first launched in China, said Jamie MacEwan from British TV analysts Enders.

“This figure is up from 24.5 billion by May 2017, showing how China’s appetite for Peppa has only increased,” MacEwan said.

Now Entertainment One — the Canadian media company that currently produces the series — is banking on her popularity translating to the big screen.

A trailer for the movie, directed by Chinese filmmaker Zhang Dapeng (張大鵬), has gone viral with the hashtag “Who is Peppa” being viewed more than 1.6 billion times on Weibo, a spokeswoman for Alibaba Pictures Group said.

The promotional clip shows a rural villager’s quest to find out what his city-dwelling grandson wants when he asks for “Pei Qi” (佩奇) — Mandarin for Peppa Pig — in a bid to create the perfect Lunar New Year gift in time for the boy’s annual visit.

The trailer struck a chord with Chinese audiences because it “showcases the same values highlighted in the movie — family, reunion, harmony and love,” Zhang wrote on Weibo.

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