Brow Beat

Chinese Audiences Will Not See Disney’s New Movie Starring Notorious Outlaw Winnie the Pooh

A CGI Winnie the Pooh sits on a live-action park bench, back to back with Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor).
Not pictured: Xi Jinping.
Disney

Chinese film authorities have denied Disney’s Christopher Robin a theatrical run in the country, Disney’s head of distribution has confirmed, and the reason might be that the film’s star is something of a resistance leader. No, it’s not Ewan McGregor—who plays the movie’s titular character, now all grown up—but Winnie the Pooh who is the subject of controversy. Chinese censors have cracked down on the tubby bear ever since a meme comparing him to President Xi Jinping took off in 2013, and now Chinese audiences will not be allowed to watch Disney’s new movie because, an anonymous source tells the Hollywood Reporter, the Communist Party considers the character persona non grata.

Christopher Robin, which is already in theaters in the U.S., is the second Disney movie to be rejected in China this year, following A Wrinkle in Time. Another source told THR that Christopher Robin was not necessarily snubbed because it stars Winnie the Pooh, and that the decision “likely has to do with the size and scope of the film given the foreign film quota.” But it seems silly to dismiss censorship as a factor entirely: Searching for Winnie the Pooh by his Chinese name on the microblogging site Weibo results in error messages, and earlier this year, Chinese censors also banned mentions of John Oliver after HBO aired a Last Week Tonight segment that criticized Xi.

Oh, bother.