Peppa Pig, a British preschool animated TV series that aired for four seasons from 2004 to 2011, recently came back for its fifth season, which is currently airing in 180 countries and territories including Mainland China.
But now, Peppa Pig has been viewed more than ten billion times online over the past year, and the first episode of season 5 has already clocked over 117 million views on Youku.com. Chinese kids seem to prefer watching Peppa over anything else these days.
The original animation is simple and brightly colored, telling the story of Peppa’s family and her friend Suzy’s happy life at home and at school. In the real world, there is a Peppa Pig-themed amusement park for children in Chengdu, where visitors can play in the mud and skate on the grass.
Peppa has even been spotted helping anesthesiologists at Wuhan University’s Zhongnan Hospital, calming younger patients before surgery:
After the fifth season began airing, Peppa and her friends suddenly became popular on Chinese social media, and a plethora of Peppa memes with a more adult perspective on the show have started to circulate on Weibo and WeChat:
“You’re the loudest group in all of Tencent.” (Tencent owns WeChat)
…I have to say that some of these memes might be a bit too cute, coming from these older viewers.
Recently, this passionate audience started making their own Peppa Pig videos, dubbing the cartoon with regional dialects and covering topics from their everyday lives.
“I’m a Rongchang pig from Chongqing,” says Peppa in one such video, dubbed in the Chongqing dialect. (Rongchang, a type of pig native to Chongqing and Sichuan province, is deemed one of the eight highest-quality pigs in the world.) In the video, Chongqing Peppa calls her best friend Suzy, a sheep, and discusses how they’ll be butchered and cooked.
In the Xinjiang dialect version, the story is warmer: Peppa and her family are going to a famous reservoir, Hongyanchi, but it starts to snow. When all of the animals in the bus start singing a song about social morals that apparently all Xinjiang people know (or are made to know), the bullet comments light up:
You can find more versions of Peppa Pig in various Chinese dialects here if you’re interested. From the northeast to Hainan, from Shanghai to Hunan province, more and more Chinese netizens are becoming passionate about dubbing Peppa and reimagining her stories. It seems that nothing can stop this “hairdryer girl” (an online nickname Peppa’s earned due to the shape of her snout) from occupying a prime position on Chinese social media.
Elsewhere in Peppa land: some parents have begun worrying about their kids imitating pig snorts for over a year since first watching the show.
A more serious problem is that quite a lot of malevolent animations have begun appearing online, featuring cartoon characters like Peppa Pig and Mickey Mouse in explicitly violent or sexual scenarios. In early November last year, the New York Times reported on inappropriate videos targeted at children slipping past YouTube Kids’ filters and appearing on the site. Now it’s Chinese video platforms’ turn to figure out how these videos have fooled their filters (if there are any), and how to stop their algorithms from presenting these inappropriate videos to kids.
Unsurprisingly, cultural regulators in Beijing have been quick to step in and spur on the process:
Cover image: Sohu