Peppa Pig is absolutely skewering the cartoon competition lately, and it's looking like year of the pig has a new spokesperson, er, pig.
That's right, an entire year! "Baby Shark" could never. But Peppa could, and will.
The oinking kid's show heroine is making her silver screen debut (for real this time, not just for a glorified clip show) in "Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year," a feature-length film receiving a box office release in China on Lunar New Year, Feb. 5.
The cinematic co-production by Canadian firm Entertainment One and Alibaba Pictures will be a hybrid of animation and live-action scenes. Peppa will learn Lunar New Year traditions, while befriending human children Jiaozi and Tangyuan, depicted as panda twins in their encounters. Dragon dancing, fireworks, and red envelopes are teased in the film's animated trailer.
Canada will get movie, new episodes for Lunar New Year
Canadian Peppa fans have scoring a single showing of the film on Saturday, Feb. 9, airing in 19 theatres across the country. According to a statement from Entertainment One, many Cineplex theatres and some smaller chains will screen "Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year" in Mandarin with English subtitles.
It's unknown how many other countries will be getting Peppa in theatres. When asked for comment on why the previously China-only film was getting a Canadian release, an Entertainment One spokesperson stated it was in order "to give families outside of China, a unique opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year."
For those missing out on the screenings, two episodes using footage from the movie will be broadcasted outside of China for Lunar New Year. Canadian viewers will be able to watch both on Treehouse.
An Entertainment One spokesperson told Huffpost Canada that the movie's live-action elements with the siblings and their family, as well as exclusive animated sequences will not be included in the broadcast episodes.
#WhatIsPeppa Campaign Goes Viral
In the lead-up for the movie, Alibaba Pictures released a short film that's being lauded for its originality and emotional depth. Set in rural China, "What Is Peppa?" features a sheep farmer's struggle to figure out what "Peppa" is after his city-dwelling grandson mentions it over a choppy phone call. Through this premise, it weaves Grandpa's hijinks into a touching tale of intergenerational bonding.
Peppa is coming to China just in time for the Year of the Pig! Watch this video "What is Peppa?" to follow the hilarious yet heartwarming journey of a rural Chinese grandfather's quest to find out what Peppa is. Coming to the movie screen in China on Feb 5! pic.twitter.com/KNEmoQ4wkA— Alibaba Group (@AlibabaGroup) January 21, 2019
The queen of children's cartoons makes a brief appearance, but she didn't really even need to. The #WhatIsPeppa ad campaign racked up over 400 million views on Weibo and earned big bucks for Peppa's backers. Stocks associated with Peppa Pig surged a day after the film went online, Bloomberg reported. Merchandise inspired by the trailer has surfaced on Alibaba from multiple sellers.
As one Twitter commenter puts it, the short film shows the immense care that went into localizing the British icon for a Chinese audience.
Taking tactics that work in the United States and simply translating them is going to be insufficient in this new world. This Peppa trailer reflects a deep, deep understanding of Chinese culture: family duty, generational love, rural cities, community, Chinese New Year.— Connie Chan (@conniechan) January 24, 2019
It's expected that the movie will make similar tugs at viewers' heartstrings.
"The Peppa Pig series emphasizes the importance of family values, and that is something that will deeply resonate with Chinese audiences," Alibaba Pictures president Wei Zhang said in a press release about the film.
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A country tickled pink
The British beast has enjoyed tremendous success in the east, with consumers pigging out on Peppa merchandise and programming; the Financial Post reports that the cartoon amassed over 45 billion views on Chinese playback platforms. To handle her popularity, Entertainment One opened a bureau in Shanghai, China Daily reported. Theme parks in China are expected to open later this year in her honour.
Peppa's importance as a cultural export for Britain hasn't been missed.
"Peppa Pig is as much a part of the latter as the Royal Family, Wimbledon, the Premier League and all the other things we think of when we think of soft power," Barbara Woodward, Britain's ambassador to China, told BBC. Woodward would know, as a certified member of Peppa's posse: the ambassador held a tea party for two Peppa superfans hoping to visit Buckingham Palace.
Peppa's image abroad hasn't always been squeaky clean. It's hard to believe that just last year, she was the posterpig of political dissent in China.
Video and memes of Peppa Pig, in the vein as these cheeky western Peppa Pig edits, were scrubbed from Chinese media platforms when she became an anti-establishment symbol for the "shehuiren" subculture.
Literally translated to "society people," shehuiren is described by What's On Weibo as an internet subculture dominated by meme-loving Chinese young adults with little formal education who are fond of sarcasm and dark humour.
State media describes the subculture that's outfitted the pink cartoon character with tattoos as "gangster." Popular video platform Douyin, known in the west as TikTok, removed Peppa Pig content and blacklisted the hashtag.
If you missed Peppa's rebel persona, she's far from forgotten in this year's festivities: she's been spotted on lucky money envelopes up for sale on eBay.
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Update: Story has been updated to reflect Canadian screenings of "Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year."