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Updated on: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 02:51 AM IST

PIG ‘Gangster’ Peppa back in China’s good graces in Year of the Pig

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Beijing: Roasted as a subversive symbol and chopped from a video streaming website in China, it seemed Peppa Pig, the loveable but imperious British cartoon character, faced a bleak future in the Communist-led country. But 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 on Tuesday.

A new film titled “Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year” is being released on the first day of the holiday. The movie shows Peppa celebrating Lunar New Year with two new friends — “Jiaozi” (dumpling) and “Tang yuan” (glutinous rice ball) — named after popular local 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 and Mi Ni made a video asking to meet Queen Elizabeth II after seeing their porcine heroine visit the monarch in an episode. The clip garnered more than nine million views and made such an impact that the pair were invited for tea by the British envoy 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.

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She added that the series was popular with Chinese parents because it teaches “the importance of love and cooperation”. Peppa Pig first broadcast in China in 2015 but last May some 30,000 clips of the cartoon were removed from a popular video streaming site, following criticism from state media. Papers affiliated to the Communist Party 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 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 last April.

The shows have been watched 60 billion times on the country’s largest video streaming sites, including Tencent Video and iQiyi, 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 told AFP.
Now Entertainment One — the Canadian media company that currently produces the series — is banking on her popularity translating to the big screen.

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Published on: Monday, February 04, 2019, 05:29 AM IST
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