(Deutsche Welle) -- China has approved the release of a film version of Peppa Pig to celebrate the Year of the Pig in 2019, despite the character being described as "subversive."
Co-produced by China's Alibaba Pictures and a Canadian production house, Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year will be released to coincide with the festival, which begins on February 5.
Since it was first broadcast in China in 2015, the children's character has become a 'superbrand' due to skyrocketing popularity that has spawned a collection of merchandise including toys, tattoos, and watches.
Chinese media said the new film is the first cartoon in China to have been shot live, featuring a large human cast, including several Chinese household names.
New characters introduced
It will also introduce two new characters named "Jiaozi" or dumpling and "Tang yuan" or glutinous rice ball — two popular Chinese New Year items. The film also includes several Chinese New Year customs such as a dragon parade and fireworks, state-run China Daily reported
The release, however, is likely to cause embarrassment for senior cultural figures in China's ruling Communist Party, who in May used local media to denounce the porky character as a disruptive influence on slackers.
The state-run Global Times described fans of the show who post Peppa Pig memes and make jokes as those who "run counter to the mainstream value and are usually poorly educated with no stable job."
"They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the (Communist) party tries to cultivate."
Online videos removed
As a result of the furor, some 30,000 video clips of the cartoon were removed from the popular Douyin video-sharing platform, and the #PeppaPig hashtag was also banned from the site.
An increase in online memes featuring the children's character in pornographic or violent contexts is thought to have helped fuel the reaction.
Peppa Pig isn't the first Western cartoon character to be met with opposition in China. In August, a new Winnie the Pooh movie was banned after some internet users compared the fictional bear to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has increased online censorship following the passing of a cybersecurity law, which rights groups say has led to tighter controls on what the public can see and say online.
Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.