Viral Hit ‘Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey’ Pulled From Cinemas in Hong Kong Over Suspected China Censorship
Cinemagoers in Hong Kong looking to have their childhoods potentially ruined by viral slasher hit Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey may have been left disappointed this week, with the film having been quietly pulled from theaters, a move that has fueled speculation about censorship sparked by memes likening the children’s character and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The Hollywood Reporter understands that the microbudget British film — in which Winnie and his sidekick Piglet go on a cannibalistic rampage through the Hundred Acre Wood — was due to land in more than 30 cinemas in the city this Thursday, but has now been removed from schedules. The film has also reportedly been pulled from release in Macau.
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Moviematic, which had organized a prerelease screening of the film in Hong Kong planned for Tuesday, said on social media that its event had been canceled because of unspecified “technical reasons.” Several cinema chains have since removed the film from their websites.
However, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey has successfully screened internationally — grossing more than $4 million so far with launches in the U.S., U.K., Mexico, Russia and Australia, to name just a few territories — without any such technical hiccups. THR hears a cut version, which had removed much of the film’s gore, had already passed through local censors in Hong Kong, while a secret screening took place there last week.
The film’s near-silent removal from theaters has prompted speculation that it was pulled, according to one source, due to “political pressure,” with an outright — although unspoken — Winnie-the-Pooh ban in China now appearing to have extended to Hong Kong.
In 2018, Disney’s live-action/CGI feature Christopher Robin — featuring a far more savory version of Pooh — wasn’t approved by authorities in China. While no reason was given at the time, it was blamed on the country’s unofficial crackdown on images of the children’s character after he became a symbol of resistance against the ruling Community Party, with bloggers having drawn comparisons between the pudgy, cuddly bear and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
China has been cracking down hard on dissent and freedom of expression in Hong Kong since it introduced the National Security Law there in 2020, with anything overtly sensitive to the mainland now unlikely to be screened in the territory, which once had its own liberal ratings systems in place. In 2021, for the first time in 50 years, no Hong Kong broadcaster aired the Oscars, despite Derek Tsang’s Better Days being nominated for best international film. The move mirrored instructions given by Beijing media regulators to mainland Chinese press outlets not to broadcast live coverage of the ceremony and play down reporting (believed to be over the nomination of short documentary Do Not Split about the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong).
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey — an insane, low-budget slasher in which a giant bear bludgeons his victims to death with a sledgehammer and runs over them in his car — may not be remotely as serious as a documentary about political protests. But it may well have become the first movie to have been censored in Hong Kong over China’s equally insane-sounding Pooh ban.