The Chinese Government Is Afraid of Cartoons

A Chinese animation company recently made the Webcartoon posted above to celebrate Chinese new year. Now, as The Guardian reports, the Chinese government is scrambling to censor the film and make sure nobody within China sees it. This is a wonderful demonstration of the effect that animation can have exposing the paranoia and corruption of governments who fear even drawings of cute bunny rabbits.

A translation and additional info about the cartoon can be found on the ChinaGeeks.org:

Regardless of what the disclaimer says, it is probably obvious even to those who don’t speak Chinese that this video makes repeated and explicit reference to real life events. The milk powder death, the fire, the illegal demolitions, the beating of protesters, the self-immolation, the “Tiger Gang” car accident, etc. are all references to real-life events that any Chinese viewer would be immediately and intimately familiar with…Of course, sarcastic animations and other web jokes about these incidents are common. What is not common is the end of the video, which depicts a rabbit rebellion where masses of rabbits storm the castle of the tigers and eat them alive…The clip ends with what seems almost like a call to arms for the new year, with Kuang Kuang saying it will be a meaningful (有意“¹‰, could also be translated as “important”) year and then the end title reading: “The year of the rabbit has come. Even rabbits bite when they’re pushed.”

(Thanks, Jonathan Sloman)


  • Jay Sabicer

    TIM: [still pointing] There he is!
    [Enter a snowy white rabbit, hopping out of the cave, among the bones]
    ARTHUR: Where?
    TIM: There!
    ARTHUR: What, behind the rabbit?

    Couldn’t resist the python reference. I am curious on how effective the Chinese government will be on keeping this under wraps.

  • http://robertkohr.com Robert Kohr

    Other than it looking like a KIRF version of Happy Tree Friends I found it enjoyable, though the music is all over the place. The animation is good and they get the point across. Its not all that subtle either I can see why it was banned.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Good Lord! That cartoon burns white hot. Amazing. I don’t know enough about Chinese current events to understand all of the references, but the basic thrust comes through loud and clear. It’s always astounding to see the power of cartooning to distill outrage and focus it like a laser beam of propaganda to effect change. This reminds me of Raemaekers’ WWI cartoons about German atrocities in Belgium. I’m sure it’s hard for anyone on either side of the issues in China to ignore this.

  • Newshound

    I think it relates to this 2008 incident:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal

  • In My Humbolt Opinion

    The Chinese government is not “afraid of cartoons”. They’re actually spending lots of money on animation schools because they understand that cartoons make lots of money. This particular cartoon is subversive and that’s why they’re censoring it. This post reminds me of your “Officer Bubbles Hates Cartoons” post, or more recently your “Jared Loughner Shot People Because He Saw a Cartoon” post. The fact that they’re animated has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Amid, please do more interviews with some of the animators who make all the cool cartoons you post. Stop trying to shoehorn anything that happens to feature animation into animation “news”.

    • Um

      Just to get this straight – are you saying you don’t believe the censorship of a profoundly antagonistic animated work by the government it criticizes is newsworthy enough to be featured here?

      • In My Humbolt Opinion

        Well jeez, when you put it that way!… yes, you’re right, it’s totally newsworthy. I guess I just don’t like the headline? I don’t see how it being animated has any connection to it being censored. If it was live action, the Chinese government would still be scrambling. If the videos making fun of Officer Bubbles were live action, he would still want them removed from youtube. If Waking Life was live action, Jared Loughner would still be obsessed with it because it’s about lucid dreaming.

        All that being said, I guess I overreacted, so sorry about that. I am glad it was featured here because I haven’t seen this story anywhere else, but I do wish those other posts could have been interviews with animators instead. I don’t know why Amid doesn’t do more of that, that stuff’s gold!

      • http://www.tubbirdbelty.com Barbara

        I agree with IMHO. The way a headline is construed greatly affects a person’s comprehension of the news being presented, the same is true of coupling photos with news articles/headlines, and most of the time it may be subconscious to the reader. Headlines are powerful, and a writer can imply anything they want with the way they word it. To someone skimming a web page, they can form wildly different opinions on an article than if they were to read it critically. That’s why I take everything I read with a heap of skepticism.

      • Mike Luzzi

        I think the headline is appropriate. I think the point is that cartoons are dismissed by a lot of people as being for kids or whatever and this shows how strong animation can be. So strong that the Chinese government is afraid of it to the point where they are scrambling to censor it.

      • AltredEgo

        I find it extremely ironic that this site praises anti-government work, yet the “American Dream” cartoon by Six Point Harness studios has been completely ignored, even though I know it was posted to the Brew wall and the discussion pages before it was deleted.

        Much like this post shall likely never see the light of day.

        It’s easy to criticize when it’s not your precious and beloved government that’s being challenged.

        AE.

  • MichaelHughes

    This isn’t like Yuri Norstein being suppressed for being vague. This is exactly why they have those firewalls.

  • snip2345

    So, I take it ‘Happy Tree Friends’ doesn’t play in China.

    • http://kelseighn.blogspot.com Kelseigh

      I wasn’t aware that Happy Tree Friends suggests an uprising against the Chinese government. I doubt they care about violence if it’s not directed at them.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    I suspect that some here in the West might look at this as pure entertainment in the random violence/South Park mode, but that is totally missing the point of this film. It isn’t intended to entertain. It’s clearly focused propaganda designed as a call to action. Too many people see animation as being just cute or funny. This cartoon is much more than that. It’s a middle finger held high in the face of the Chinese government.

    It’s interesting that this film appears to be made on film, unless that’s an AfterEffects effect. The only way for a film like this to be effective is if it goes viral on the Internet. A physical film would be much easier to stamp out. Animation in the age of the Internet has much more power to get a political point across than back in the Cold War where films like The Hand had to make their case one audience at a time in film festivals.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    A firewall keeps things out. If it comes from inside, that sort of censorship is a little more difficult. Even passed hand to hand on CDR, films like this could have an impact.

    I don’t think this is a particularly great film. It’s more anarchic than it is profound. But it certainly does point to a use for animation that could become more important if filmmakers realize the potential.

  • Jorge Garrido

    What a brushback pitch of a film!

  • yoshitoshi

    amazing! I cant believe the balls from that animation company. I was even more impressed with the creativity of it all and the soundtrack.

  • Degeaffusunuman

    Not sure what to say about this. Free speech is great and all but I really didn’t like this. Nothing too special about the animation and the violence was excessive and frankly I thought it was gross.

    Maybe it would be better if Nick Cross made it.

  • rghbr

    I know I shouldn’t laugh… but that language/accent with the music and visuals made me laugh a lot.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    I’m pals with Nick, and I love his films, but this is a different sort of thing. The violence and conspiracies in Nick’s films are exaggerated and symbolic. The point of it is to express cynical irony. I get the feeling from this Chinese film that they are referring to specific acts of violence that actually took place. The intent is to incite outrage, not entertain. That makes it closer in spirit to Sinking of the Lusitania than Pig Farmer.

    I might be wrong because I don’t know the backstory, but tainted baby formula, people burning in a locked building as corrupt officials stand by and do nothing, and late night executions on deserted back roads by militia squads sounds more like suppressed news stories than the typical subject of cartoons.

  • http://kambodiahotel.blogspot.com BR Inle

    Eh..heh. Pretty cool.
    I was thinking about sharing this link in as many places as I could, because I strongly dislike me some Chinese government, but then I started to have second thoughts. The short seems to be advocating violent revolution via bunny teeth. I just hope the bunnies have a thoughtful, functional plan for how they are going to govern once they take over. Chinese history is such a cluster eff after all.
    But I suppose it’s good for the tigers to be reminded from time to time.

  • http://pyatyletka.blogspot.com Nick Cross

    That was awesome!!!!

  • Cyber Fox

    Our president and the left leaning bozos are kissing China’s bahookies in order to pussify our country, I’m not surprised China would want to censor this film
    then again, China is doing some shady stuff behind our backs like this: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/chinas-new-stealth-fighter-may-use-technology-from-downed-u-s-plane/

    • Um

      Censorship and the manipulation of media is not a unique phenomenon in the world. No matter which direction they lean, the bozos here in the US of A go to just as much trouble to assure the official view is the one disseminated to the public as the bozos over there do. At least in China nobody is fooled.

      Also, at risk of going off topic here, you do realize that we made it to the moon in 1969 thanks to Nazi rocket technology we inherited (solicited) in the aftermath of WWII, which was developed at the expense of concentration camp labor. Failing to see how the article you posted is evidence of anything shadier than that.

    • http://www.drunkduck.com/anecdote Marbles

      “Our president and the left leaning bozos are kissing China’s bahookies in order to pussify our country.”

      What in the name of God are you talking about? People say outrageous things like that all the time, and I’m sick of it. (And so many of them have this peculiar obsession with things being “pussified,” a particularly ugly and retrograde mindset to have.)

      Whatever their politics are, if someone’s going to accuse their own government of trying to deliberately undermine their own nation, they’d better be able to back that up with something substantial. Otherwise, they can keep the ugly emotionalisms under their hats.

      • http://www.cementimental.com Tim Drage

        Why even bother to reply to the blog’s obligatory token rightwing furry?

      • Was my face red.

        Speaking as a left leaning bozo I would like to state that me and a great many of my clown brothers and sisters feel no affinity whatsoever with the monstrous and oppressive nation sized factory laughingly called ‘Communist’ China and would love it to see nibbled to bit s by bozo bunnies.

        P.S. My pussy (Chairman Meow) sends his regards.

      • NC

        Let’s be fair here China’s economic growth cannot be blamed on any one President, but decades of money flowing out of our country and into China. It’s no one President’s fault but rather people who want cheap labor are to be blamed. After all these years of China sucking America dry we find ourselves kind of screwed. Unable to do anything because they own the majority of our debt. If any real reform is to happen it has to be by it’s own people, which is what makes the people of Iran and Egypt so notable. The problem is is that China won’t think twice about killing one of its own remember Tienanmen Square?

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    Pretty cosmic coincidence that the film is being released as the Year of the Tiger gives way to the Year of the Rabbit. And as indigenous rabbits are taking it to the tigers in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Makes me wonder whether there isn’t something in the air.

  • Um

    Okay to bring it back to the realm of animation, im talking about this guy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBi69V8oNuw&playnext=1&list=PLE7C88CD27E7BE973

  • Christina S.

    Huh. It’s interesting that the beginning of the video claims that it “has no connection to real life,” but the tainted milk powder definitely happened. Was that just a feeble way to get the government off their backs?

    • http://www.drunkduck.com/anecdote Marbles

      It’s probably a deliberately ironic statement.

  • red pill junkie

    I’m awfully impressed by the balls of these guys. 2010 Nobel peace prize Liu Xiaobo went to jail for less than this!

  • Professor Widebottom

    That was the most decidedly Punk sounding cartoon soundtrack I’ve ever heard.

  • vm

    these are not drawings of cute bunny rabbits… it makes sense for the chinese government to freak out :P south park is a cartoon too, yet it’s not at all cute n innocent, and it’s not at all for kids.

  • http://www.xdf88.com/ 不锈钢反应釜

    But I can’t see this cartoon, otherwise can know why the government banned

  • http://www.chinarama.wordpress.com xiaomao

    I’ve had a go at translating and subbing this video – it can be viewed on my blog, along with a brief explanation.
    http://chinarama.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/a-subversive-chinese-new-years-greeting/
    The video speak volumes and is more of a way of venting at injustices in china, rather than a call to arms. As much as I think the CCP are a bunch of *****, another violent revolution is not what the country needs.

    In response to censorship in China – please people, get it right. Of course there is an amount of censorship worldwide, but in china it’s absolutely stifling. I have to use a vpn to get round the blocks. It’s so slow. It took me about 5 hours to post my blog because uploading links and videos takes ages. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Often it just times out and I have to shut the blog down and start all over again.

    The result is, I don’t blog often – it stifles my creativity. I think, ‘Hmm shall I write a post about this? Oh no, it will take hours, sod it,’ that is happening nationwide and right now China is facing a massive problem in terms of lack of creativity. Even places like Thailand are seen by Chinese netizens as being more creative. Censorship does not breed innovation.

    (I live in China, speak Chinese, am a writer for a state owned paper – blog under a pseudonym).