Peppa Pig Peppa Pig

During a speech yesterday that made headlines for its incoherence, Boris Johnson turned unexpectedly to the topic of Peppa Pig.

To an audience of bemused business leaders, the U.K. prime minister started reflecting on the theme park Peppa Pig World, which he had visited the day before with his wife and young son. He then commented on the vast success of the British preschool show, even weighing in on its character design:

I was a bit hazy about what I would find at Peppa Pig World, but I loved it. Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place. It has very safe streets, discipline in schools, heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems. Even if they’re a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.

The real lesson for me going to Peppa Pig World … was about the power of U.K. creativity. Who would have believed a pig who looks like … a Picasso-like hairdryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC, would now be exported to 180 countries with theme parks both in America and in China, as well as in the New Forest, and be a business that’s worth at least £6 billion [USD$8 billion] to this country and counting?

I think that is pure genius, don’t you? No government in the world, no Whitehall civil servant, would have conceivably come up with Peppa.

Beneath the swaggering comedy — one of his specialties — was a recap of some of the Convervative prime minister’s key policies and values, not least his faith in the innovation of the private sector. Hence his potshots at London’s civil service and the BBC, the nation’s public broadcaster.

For the record: the BBC did not reject Peppa Pig, according to the franchise’s creators. They told the Financial Times in 2010 that they chose not to bring the series to the broadcaster, as they didn’t like how it had handled their last show and were put off by its approach to pitches in general. They also wanted to keep control of rights. Funding for the first season was cobbled together from a distributor, private broadcasters, and their own wallets.

The BBC continues to dominate kids’ animation production in the U.K. It recently announced that it will triple investment in animation for children aged 7–12, in a bid to find a global hit for the age bracket that matches Peppa Pig’s popularity among preschoolers.


Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.