'Winnie the Pooh' horror film release in Hong Kong suddenly canceled


Horror film “Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey” has been pulled from Hong Kong without explanation, prompting further concerns over the city’s freedom.

On Tuesday, the film’s distributor, VII Pillars Entertainment, announced on Facebook that the movie's release on Thursday in Hong Kong and Macao had been cancelled.

“It is with great regret to announce the scheduled release of ‘Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’ in Hong Kong and Macau on March 23 has been cancelled. We are sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience,” they wrote.

The film, which was produced by the U.K.’s Jagged Edge Productions and written, directed and produced by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, follows a feral Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet who terrorize Christopher Robin and a group of young women at a remote house.

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Hong Kong reportedly had more than 30 cinemas booked to showcase the film this Thursday.

It was previously approved by Hong Kong’s censors — The Office of Film, Newspaper and Article Administration — earlier this month.

Moviematic, which had a screening scheduled for Tuesday night, canceled due to unspecified “technical reasons.”

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“The cinemas agreed to show it, then all independently came to the same decision overnight. It won't be a coincidence,” Frake-Waterfield told Reuters. "They claim technical reasons but there is no technical reason. The film has showed in over 4,000 cinema screens worldwide. These 30-plus screens in Hong Kong are the only ones with such issues."

In 2013, the family-friendly version of Winnie the Pooh was compared to President Xi Jinping, who .

The comparison memes began when Xi visited the U.S. to meet his then-counterpart Barack Obama. In recent years, censors in China have cracked down on Winnie the Pooh references as online users have used the cartoon bear’s image to signal dissent against Xi.

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In 2018, the film “Christopher Robin,” which also features the character Winnie the Pooh, was also banned in China.

China has been cracking down on dissent and freedom of expression in Hong Kong since the National Security Law was introduced in 2020 to prohibit “sedition, secession and subversion” against Beijing.

Under China’s strict censorship system, an episode of “The Simpsons” that referenced the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre was banned in 2021 on Disney+ in Hong Kong. Last month, another episode from “The Simpsons” was also banned due to its reference to labor camps in China.

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Controversial themes and taboo subjects, such as graphic sex, violence and LGBTQ storylines, are also censored in the country.