China Won’t Release Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ Movie Because Winnie the Pooh Memes Have Become Too Subversive
China’s film authorities are denying the release of Christopher Robin at a time when Winnie the Pooh has emerged as a symbol of resistance in the country toward its leader Xi Jinping.
The film, starring Ewan McGregor and a CGI Winnie the Pooh, aspires to tell the tale of recapturing childhood innocence. In China, the Pooh imagery is anything but innocent in meaning. Since last summer, Chinese authorities began blocking images of Winnie the Pooh on social media because of a purported resemblance between the bear and Chinese president Xi.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, which first reported on China’s refusal to distribute the film, a source blamed the Pooh crackdown in China for the move. Some Disney releases, such as Maleficent and Cinderella, have done well for the company in China in recent years.
In June, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver noted the Xi-Pooh connection and created a mock propaganda video that tweaked Xi’s apparent sensitivity to the comparison. HBO’s online content was soon blocked in China.
Christopher Robin, a summer film that relies on live-action as well as computer animation, had the second largest box office receipts this weekend behind Mission: Impossible 6. The Winnie the Pooh remake brought in $24.6 million in the U.S. during the weekend.