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Short Film “What is Peppa?” Breaks the Chinese Internet

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The upcoming China-exclusive Peppa Pig movie (小猪佩奇过大年; Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year) released a promotional video yesterday, which promptly became an overnight social media sensation. At this writing, the hashtag #啥是佩奇 (“What is Peppa”) has received 340 million views and 353,000 posts on Weibo. If you’re a Wechat user, you’ve likely seen it all over your Moments feed today as well.

A five-minute version of the film — which isn’t quite a trailer, but more of a standalone short — can be seen on Weibo, and an eight-minute director’s cut is viewable on Xinpianchang, an online community for filmmakers in China similar to Vimeo.

The story is simple: a rural, left-behind grandpa, out of love for his grandson, searches for the answer to the question: What is Peppa? It is a genius and organic blend of several thematic and promotional themes: a bittersweet family story set during Chinese New Year; a PSA for reuniting with family during the holidays; a commercial for China Mobile’s strong, ubiquitous telecom connection; and, of course, a highly effective ad for the movie without being a trailer.

It’s a gentle, loving and realistic story set against the raw backdrop of the northern Chinese wilderness, but still sparkles with universal wit that transcends the film’s geographical setting. You don’t have to like — or even know about — Peppa Pig to be brought to tears by it, even if you do need to know a bit of Chinese to understand it.

“If you’ve been to provinces and cities near Shanxi; if you’ve been to the Nanjiao district of Datong; if you’ve seen the villages whose fates are connected to the rise and fall of coal mining; then you’ll know this film sticks to the true colors [of the land],” user Huang Yifeng commented on the Xinpianchang director’s cut. Huang, a film colorist from Sichuan, added: “The dry aesthetic is so rich in this film. It’s messy and dirty, and yet airy.”

Ching, a 26-year-old marketing professional based in Beijing, commented on WeChat Moments:

So I looked this up, and it turns out that the viral promo video What Is Peppa is directed by the same director of the actual Peppa Pig movie [Zhang Dapeng]. No publicity or distribution company was involved with the production [of the short]. Do you get it now? Those who understand the clients’ needs the most will always be the clients themselves. If the client’s got a brain, nerve and talent, then there’s not much left to do for a supplier.

The forthcoming Peppa Pig movie is a co-production between Alibaba Pictures and Entertainment One, and is directed by Zhang Dapeng, with animation directed by Peppa Pig’s creators. Distributed by Alibaba ticketing platform Taopiaopiao, the film is scheduled to hit theaters on February 5 — the first day of the Year of the Pig.

Maybe we could all use some family muddy-puddle-jumping time to give the new year a fresh, carefree start. Honestly, who doesn’t love letting out a full-on, porcine snort when laughing uncontrollably with friends and family?

Based on the success of this viral short, it seems likely that there will be a lot of that in Chinese theaters come February.

More on Peppa Pig in China:

Alibaba is Making a Peppa Pig Film for Chinese New Year

Peppa Pig Has Spawned a Panoply of Chinese Memes

Emma Sun
Emma Sun is a Shanghai-based writer, producer and project manager. She's done video production work for clients including Ford, Audi, Nike, Sesame Street, Chanel, Elle, and more. She also works as a writer and translator, covering topics relating to contemporary Chinese culture and society for Variety and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram (@emmabpm) and Twitter (@emsbpm).