Alibaba’s Peppa Pig movie doesn’t have much Peppa Pig in it

Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year is a live-action film with a lot of stereotypes

12 Feb, 2019 8:55am EDT

The new Peppa Pig movie is 81 minutes long. And Peppa is only in it for around 30 minutes.

That’s not even the weirdest thing about Alibaba’s new Peppa Pig movie, which isn’t a cartoon. it’s a live-action movie about a Chinese family coming together for Lunar New Year… except it’s got short Peppa Pig episodes sprinkled through the story.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

It’s not a great combination. I struggled to stay awake, but children in the cinema visibly lost their minds when the cartoon family of pink swines appeared.

Peppa Celebrates Lunar New Year is being shown in select theatres in the US. (Picture: Alibaba Pictures)

It’s not like the short Peppa Pig “episodes” are woven in artfully, either. They’re effectively standalone shorts that share a vague theme of celebration, with the movie starting with an episode of Peppa’s family going to a festival, and ending with Peppa’s family celebrating the Lunar New Year.

For instance, in the festival episode, there is a part where Peppa, George and their father had fun getting muddy after their camping site got rained on. However, that part has nothing to do with, say, the last short where Peppa learns the various traditions of Chinese New Year.

(But... while that bit looks to me like a bunch of dumb pig-and-mud jokes, children in the cinema loved it. Kids at the age of 4 and 5 told me after the show that the part where the Peppa family jumped into puddles and made mud castles was their absolute favorite. Clearly, our sensibilities are a little different.)

What about the rest of the movie? Well, the live-action part irritates me tremendously because it, in an attempt to portray various Chinese festive traditions, features a lot of regional stereotypes. The film shows northerners as loud and rambunctious and southerners as soft-spoken pushovers.

More specifically, in the movie, the family consists of two children, a wife from the south and a husband from the north. On New Year’s Eve, grandparents from both sides of the family came together. And from that point, the movie devolves into grandparents sizing one another up with their respective Lunar New Year traditions.

More than half the film is spent building up quasi-tensions between the two grandmas: Northern grandma is a micromanager and a diva who’s continually flaunting her skills, while the one from the south is a self-pitying, passive-aggressive sucker who constantly murmurs to herself, “I don’t understand these northerners...”

How does Peppa fit into this story? Because the two compete for their grandchildren’s love by telling them Peppa Pig stories. They also treat the Peppa Pig storybook almost as if it’s the Bible: At one point, one of the grandmothers demonstrates her deep knowledge by literally shouting, “Yeah, I know that story. It’s from Book 1 Chapter 18!”

(This tension was somehow finally reconciled at the end after the grandma from the south just succumbs to the other grandma’s bullying. 🤷🏻‍♂️)

The kids at my cinema loved it, but the parents I spoke to were disappointed. And it’s getting bad scores online in China, presumably from parents. In response, the director hasn’t said much -- except to share a post on Weibo that says, “Whoever gave the score of 1 is cattle.”

​Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year feels like a holiday cash grab, a poor movie with insulting stereotypes and precious little actual Peppa Pig. But while I was watching (and hating) the film, it was hard not to notice all the many rows of children around me, all of whom seemed to enjoy it. So what do I know?


more from abacus