Disney has attempted to offer their latest live-action remake of an animated property, Christopher Robin, to China in recent weeks – only to be rebuffed. While there have been no outright confirmations at the time of writing, some believe this is as a result of Winnie the Pooh – the loveable, philosophy-spouting, honey-guzzling bear – being seen as something of a symbol in resistance to Xi Jinping, the President of China and leader of the ruling Communist Party. These concerns date back a few years, but arose again with Chinese citizens opposing the Party’s wishes to remove term limitations for Jinping earlier this year – as they responded, in droves, by comparing the President to the bear in appearance.
It’s been reported that material related to AA Milne’s beloved character has been locked down in the country as a result of wider censorship, and in an effort to ban any comparisons being made between Jinping and Pooh altogether. It’s thought comparisons date back to a side-by-side image of Pooh and friend Tigger with a photograph of Jinping and then-US President Barack Obama – with the implication that Pooh was physically akin to Jinping, and Tigger akin to Obama. The issue even seemingly led to US broadcaster HBO’s website being barred outright in the country after John Oliver raised the Jinping-Pooh issue in an episode of his show ‘Last Week Tonight’ - and Oliver described the Pooh phenomenon as a ‘weird insecurity’ in Jinping. Therefore, it’s safe to say that the Chinese state is taking any Pooh-related mockery of the President very seriously indeed.
This, however, may not exactly explain why Pooh’s latest outing has been blocked from screenings in the country, though many media outlets appear to be implying that it could be a leading concern. China has previously blocked Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time - but has allowed through Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp – and it’s a known fact that Chinese cinema can only broadcast 34 films from foreign states per year. Perhaps the limit had been reached?
Regardless – Disney continues to enjoy a colossally good year at the box office, with Marvel’s Black Panther, Infinity War and aforementioned Ant-Man sequel all joining Incredibles 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story in this year’s domestic top ten sellers – with all but Solo retaining top ten places worldwide thus far.