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When you think of the kinds of movies that get banned or censored in other countries, you are likely to think of ones that feature gratuitous violence, controversial sexuality or the kind of adult content in something like Deadpool 2. What you are not likely to think of is a PG-rated kids movie about a talking stuffed bear. Yet that is exactly where we are now, as Disney's Christopher Robin has been denied release in the huge Chinese market. The reasoning for this is that China is cracking down on images of Winnie the Pooh because the character has become something of a symbol of the resistance against the country's leader Xi Jinping and his ruling Communist party.
China's film authorities have denied the Disney title a release in the country, and although no reason was given, THR's sources report that it is part of the country's ongoing crusade against the honey loving bear. Authorities in China have been blocking images of Winnie the Pooh in the country since last summer, so not allowing Christopher Robin to release there is in keeping with that trend. Winnie the Pooh as a character is more about eating honey than leading resistance movements, but foes of the ruling party and Xi Jinping have been using the character as a symbol and as a way to needle the country's leader. It may be hard to believe anyone could hate Winnie the Pooh, but comparisons have been made that Xi Jinping looks like the silly old bear, an observation he is clearly not a fan of.
Another source contends that the Pooh crackdown is not the reason for the denial, and that it is actually because of the foreign film quota and that there are already several big Hollywood films playing in China. That may be the case, but earlier this summer, John Oliver got HBO banned in China when he made fun of Xi Jinping and his Winnie the Pooh resemblance. So given the crackdown, it definitely seems like China wouldn't want a big movie plastering the newly taboo character all over theater screens.
This marks only the second Disney title to not get a release in the Middle Kingdom this year after A Wrinkle in Time. Despite missing out on the Chinese market, Christopher Robin is still set up to do well at the box office. Even though audiences won't be able to see it with MoviePass, the film is tracking at around $30 million at the domestic box office this weekend. Christopher Robin is going into the weekend on pretty mixed, but overall favorable reviews, although nostalgia arguably makes this film review proof.