Winnie The Pooh is not heading to the Middle Kingdom after Disney’s Christopher Robin was banned in China due to sensitivities between Chinese President Xi Jinping and the honey-loving bear.
Disney’s distribution chief Cathleen Taff, who is Executive Vice President of Theatrical Distribution, Franchise Management and Business & Audience Insights at the Hollywood studio confirmed the ban, according to the Associated Press.
China has been increasingly cautious about Winnie The Pooh in the last few years after it emerged that President Xi was growing sensitive about the similarities between himself and A.A. Milne’s creation. As a result, Pooh has been banned on social media in the country and has become a symbol of political resistance with detractors of the Communist party.
In July, John Oliver, host of HBO’s The Last Week Tonight, was censored in China after a segment pointing out the resemblance. “Apparently, Xi Jinping is very sensitive about his perceived resemblance to Winnie the Pooh,” Oliver said. “And I’m not even sure it’s that strong a resemblance, to be honest. But the fact he’s annoyed about it means people will never stop bringing it up.”
The ban comes after the Marc Forster-directed live action film, which stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin, scored $25M at the box office on its opening weekend. The performance was better than Pete’s Dragon, Disney’s previous August feature adaptation of one of its vault classics and in the U.S. is set to beat the entire global run of the last 2011 feature toon, Winnie-the-Pooh ($33.1M).
The film follows the titular character, who as a young boy used to go on adventures with his lovable stuffed animals. Now, as a grown man, the young boy who embarked on countless adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood with his band of spirited and lovable stuffed animals, has grown up and lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin remember the loving and playful boy who is still inside.
Forster directs a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder. The film also stars Hayley Atwell as Robin’s wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. Providing the voices for Milne’s lovable characters are Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh; Chris O’Dowd as Tigger; Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Sophie Okonedo as Kanga.