China has denied a release to Disney’s Christopher Robin amid a government crackdown on images depicting Winnie the Pooh. Starring Ewan McGregor as the titular Robin, Disney’s family film opens this weekend in the United States where it’s expected to take in $20-30 million at the box office, which may be enough to best last week's #1 movie, Mission: Impossible - Fallout.
Inspired by the classic children’s stories by A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin picks up the story of Christopher after he’s become a grown-up businessman and forgotten about his childhood friends Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet and the rest. After Robin gets a surprise visit from his old pal Pooh, he sets off on a journey to find his old friends, who subsequently return with him to the city to help him rediscover his lost sense of joy. The movie currently carries a 65 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Though Christopher Robin sounds like the most innocent of movies, THR reveals that China has denied Disney the right to release it in the country. According to sources, the reason for the film’s banning has nothing to do with the movie’s subject matter and everything to do with politics. Winnie the Pooh, it turns out, has become a symbol of resistance groups working against Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Communist Party, and the Chinese government is therefore seeking to clamp down on images depicting the character.
Winnie the Pooh as a symbol of the resistance began when bloggers noted a physical resemblance between the character and Xi Jinping, and since then China has been actively removing images of Pooh from social media. China even blocked HBO last year after host John Oliver made jokes about the comparisons between Pooh and the Chinese president. At least one source has actually contradicted the Pooh explanation for Christopher Robin being denied release, claiming that China’s foreign film quota is to blame for the block.
Christopher Robin actually is the second Disney film to be denied release in China this year. Earlier in 2018, China refused to release Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which went on to gross a paltry $132 million at the worldwide box office. Another Disney release of 2018, Avengers: Infinity War, was a massive hit in China with $359 million of its $2 billion worldwide take coming in that market. Disney had less luck this year with its two Star Wars offerings, with Star Wars: The Last Jedi taking in just $44 million while Solo: A Star Wars Story limped to only $16 million in receipts.
Though China has grown to become the world’s second-biggest film market and American movies have become huge draws there, cultural sensitivities still sometimes result in Hollywood fare not translating well. Occasionally, film studios have been willing to cater to the Chinese market by watering down content and even making casting decisions that supposedly appeal to Asian filmgoers. However, in the case of Christopher Robin, the issue isn't so much a cultural disconnect as a political situation and there was nothing Disney could have done to get around that reality.
- Disney's Christopher Robin (2018) release date: Aug 03, 2018