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The Year of the Rabbit

The Year of the Rabbit

Osocio reader Susanne, from Amnesty International Canada, shared this amazing Chinese cartoon on Facebook:

It’s gory, bold, moving, and epic. It makes South Park look like the Care Bears. Or Spümcø look like… well, it’s very Spümcø.

And it’s unsurprisingly banned in China.

The creator of “Greeting Card for the Year of the Rabbit”, alias “Pi San”, is quoted by the Wall Street Journal’s China Realtime Report:

“I felt this past year was really depressing, so I wanted to create this thing for fun,” the director of the cartoon, who goes by the online name Pi San, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “People need to vent their emotions…. As a member of the general public, I feel unhappy about some things in society and I need to give vent to my unhappiness. Everyone has their own way to express themselves: some go shopping and others wear makeup. For me, I vented by making this video. I thought I could express my feelings this way.”

You don’t need to understand what’s being said to follow the anger that builds from issues like tainted baby formula, forced evictions, and the decadence of party officials — all of which culminates in a new revolution.

More explanation, from WSJ, below.


About 45 seconds into the nearly four-minute video, a rabbit—angered over the deaths of baby bunnies after drinking poisoned milk—pushes his way into a political meeting where a group of tigers under a red banner with the slogan “Construct a Harmonious Forest” hold forth to an audience of rabbits. “Harmony” and “harmonious society” are, of course, the favorite watchwords of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s administration.

In the video, fire breaks out at in the meeting hall and a tiger orders the audience not to move, saying “let the leaders leave first,” as the tigers file out. The rabbits burn.

Pi San works at Hutoon, a Beijing-based animation studio founded in 2005 that produces humorous animations for various programs, including those by state broadcaster China Central Television. Hutoon is also working with a Chinese online video website and a state-owned film company on a cartoon series called “Miss Puff.”

Hutoon has acknowledged producing “Greeting Card for the Year of the Rabbit.” But Pi San and another person who works there say they didn’t create it for mass distribution. They say it was originally created for fans of its animated series “Kuang,” and was uploaded and posted to an online community and a Hutoon fan website, then distributed more widely by the fans.

“Kuang” won an award for “best online animation” at the government-hosted Xiamen International Cartoon and Animation Festival in 2009. The little boy featured in “Greeting Card for the Year of the Rabbit” who dreams of the revolution is “Kuang,” recognizable by his constantly bloody nose. Several of Hutoon’s other “Kuang” cartoons viewed by The Wall Street Journal do not feature violence such as in the new year greeting animation.

Pi San’s comments reflect how blasé some young Internet users have become about social criticism in a country where just a decade or two ago it was scarce—and where it can still carry harsh consequences. Pi San said he knew the video’s content was politically sensitive. But he said it was meant to be humorous, and that he didn’t think deeply about the possible consequences of creating it, other than the possibility that it would be banned by censors.

He said that while the cartoon referenced specific events in China, it could have been a story of frustration with oppression taking place anywhere. “I’m not saying that the video is not sensitive at all,” or that it doesn’t reference real events, he said. But the film is “a fairytale” that “could actually take place in many places, as long as there are people feeling unhappy.”

One wouldn’t expect the creator of such a video to openly declare it a criticism of the party, even if that were the intention. And this isn’t the first time the creator of a viral video like this has distanced himself from the idea that his creation is subversive. Corndog, creator of “War of Internet Addiction,” a 64-minute machinima film about a battle with government Internet controls that became an Internet sensation in China last year, said that inclusion of events in his film that appeared politically sensitive were meant to be humorous. Then, on the sidelines of a film festival last year, he said that despite the obvious references to war and revolution in his plot, interpretations that the film was political and alluded to revolting against regulators were a stretch. Unlike Hutoon’s rabbit cartoon “War of Internet Addiction” remains available on Chinese websites.

Hutoon said it has not been contacted by the government about the cartoon. Pi San says it may have been removed from Chinese websites because of overzealous self-censorship. “It’s no big deal…. Some people just scare themselves by thinking about how bad the problem could be,” he said.

Chinese websites are, in fact, required by the government to remove illegal content, and some are more heavy-handed than others in terms of preemptively deciding what government censors would disapprove of. It is also common practice for government officials at all levels to request takedowns of content they deem inappropriate.

Pi San said he thinks his film caused a stir because many people “shared my feelings toward these events.”

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more