The horror movie Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey will not be released in Hong Kong and Macau’s movie theaters. Hong Kong movie theaters suddenly decided not to show the movie.
VII Pillars Entertainment announced on Tuesday the scheduled release of Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey in Hong Kong and Macau on March 23 has been canceled. “We are incredibly sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience,” the distributor of the movie in Hong Kong wrote in a Facebook post.
Created by English author Alan Alexander Milne in 1926, Winnie the Pooh’s Disney movie character has been censored in China because of memes comparing Winnie the Pooh with Chinese President Xi Jinping. When the Chinese president visited the United States in 2013, a picture of Xi Jinping and Barack Obama was compared with an image of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. The Disney character has also been used to show dissent.
The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA), responsible for classifying films for public exhibition and publication and censoring publications in newspapers in Hong Kong, approved the screening of the movie. “The arrangements of cinemas in Hong Kong on the screening of individual films with certificates of approval in their premises are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned, and OFNAA would not comment on such arrangements,” a spokesperson of the OFNAA told Reuters.
Beijing imposed a highly-criticized security law in 2020 to restrict dissent in Hong Kong. A censorship law was passed in 2021 barring films that “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security.” Macau is a special administrative region of China like Hong Kong, but it is more closely managed by the Central government.
British director Rhys Frake-Waterfield told Reuters that “something mysterious” had happened. “The cinemas agreed to show it, then all independently come to the same decision overnight. It won’t be a coincidence,” he said.
“They claim technical reasons, but there is no technical reason,” Mr. Frake-Waterfield added. “The film has showed in over 4,000 cinema screens worldwide. These 30+ screens in Hong Kong are the only ones with such issues.”
Winnie the Pooh from the 1926 book, not the Disney one, is available in the public domain. But his red shirt, the way he talks, and some phrases are Disney’s interpretations and copyrighted. Versions of Piglet are the preferred partners of Pooh in the movie, instead of Tigger who is not in the first book.
Mr. Frake-Waterfield saw it as an opportunity to adapt one of his favorite childhood characters in a horror movie, the genre he loves, but he had to make his own interpretation of the book. “It’s really like Popcorn horror in a way. We’re embracing the fantasy side of it, and not trying to keep it too real, so anyone who goes to see it is supposed to have fun, embrace the silly side of it. […] It’s not meant to be taken too seriously. It’s meant to be laughed at,” he said during a promotional interview for a Hong-Kong audience.