Believe it or not, there’s a good chance that Winnie the Pooh might be removed from Shanghai Disneyland in the near future. That’s right, no more character meet-and-greets, no more merchandise and the attractions could get re-themed. For those unfamiliar, Shanghai Disneyland has two Pooh attractions: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a duplicate of the attractions found in Florida and Hong Kong, and Pooh’s Hunny Pot Spin, a one-of-a-kind teacup ride. Both attractions are found in Fantasyland at Shanghai Disneyland.
Why would Shanghai Disneyland go to the expense to re-theme two attractions? One word answer: ego. The current president of China is a guy by the name of Xi Jinping. Over the years, the people of China have used Pooh as a way to mock their president by comparing him to the Disney-famed “chubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.”
This all started with a visit former US President Barack Obama made to China back in 2013. The above picture went viral in China when Obama was compared to Tigger and Jinping was referenced as Winnie the Pooh. Now, if this were the United States, those references would be all over the internet, late-night television, etc. In communist China, they have one of the strictest internet filtering policies in the world. And it seems that if you even mention Pooh on any of their social media, it immediately gets censored or erased.
According to CNN, if you search for Winnie the Pooh on certain Chinese social media sites, you’d get a message saying the search was against Chinese law. Even on certain platforms like WeChat (China’s most popular social media app), if you send the above picture comparing Obama and Jinping to Tigger and Pooh in a group chat, it won’t show up in the group message. It will automatically be blocked.
More recently, the release of “Christopher Robin” was banned in China after the worldwide release in 2018. While no official reason was given for the denial, The Hollywood Reporter claims it is due to the on-going “war on Winnie the Pooh” that has been going on between Jinping and the people of China. To be fair, China limits the number of films that can be released that come from foreign countries each year. Earlier in 2018, “A Wrinkle in Time” was also denied. (You’re welcome China.)
In the latest in the “Pooh war,” Pooh has been digitally removed in all Chinese advertisements of “Kingdom Hearts 3.” Indeed, reports have confirmed that when you play the Chinese version of “Kingdom Hearts 3,” Pooh will be censored (as seen above) in the game. Characters from the Hundred Acre Wood will be interactive with a white blob that will be moving around the game as if it wasn’t there when it releases in 2019.
Which leads us back to Shanghai Disneyland. It is very plausible that Shanghai Shendi (the company who operates Shanghai Disneyland on behalf of Disney) and the Chinese government are quietly working on ways to remove Pooh from the park. Can the Chinese government require Disney to remove all Winnie the Pooh references from Shanghai Disneyland? It seems like that answer is a yes. Might they come to a compromise and just remove character meet and greets and certain forms of signage? That is also a possibility. Regardless of the outcome, this is a story we will be watching in the coming months. Your thoughts?
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