Disney had no comment Friday about China’s denial of a release for the live-action/CGI film, which stars Ewan McGregor as a middle-aged British businessman and carries a PG rating. Winnie the Pooh, the character created by British author A.A. Milne as a companion for an 8-year-old Christopher Robin, comes to life in the film to help his now-adult friend regain his imagination.
In Milne’s stories, Winnie the Pooh is naive but good-natured and friendly. In China, authorities have been blocking pictures of Winnie the Pooh because Chinese media had compared Chinese leader Xi Jinping to the bear character. In June, Chinese authorities blocked HBO after “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver took a critical look at the country, including the Chinese government’s crackdown on dissent, the power of Xi Jinping and dissidents comparing Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh.
However, a knowledgeable source pointed out that the political considerations may not be the reason, given that China never explains why a film is or is not accepted. The source said it’s also possible that the denial may stem from the foreign film quota of 34 films a year, which tends to favor premium-format spectacle films, along with the fact that there are also other competitive Hollywood films landing in the market.
The next Disney title due to open in China is “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” which will launch on Aug. 24. Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” will open on Aug. 31.
“Christopher Robin” opened Friday in North America with expectations of a weekend launch in the $28 million range. The news about China denying a release for “Christopher Robin” was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.