Chinese TV stations have halted broadcasting of the country’s most popular animated series, Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, after numerous complaints that the show was too violent for its young audience.
It tells a story of a group of cheerful goats living on a meadow and a woebegone gray wolf’s repeated doomed efforts to slaughter them.
Among the broadcasters stopping the show are Zhejiang TV, while Beijing TV said it was unclear whether the show would resume after the summer break.
The violence on the show has prompted numerous online calls for a classification system for animated TV shows to protect children from harmful content.
Xinwenlianbo, China’s most watched TV news program on the state broadcaster CCTV, singled out Pleasant Goat for criticism saying the language was inappropriate and the violent behavior appalling.
CCTV cited copycat violence cases, where children imitated the characters. In one case in April, a 10-year-old boy in Jiangsu province reportedly set fire to two brothers, aged 8 and 4, after getting the idea from the TV show. The boys were badly burned.
The producers, Guangdong-based Creative Power Entertaining, said they would spend more than 10 million yuan ($1.63 million) on fixing the show, including episodes already aired, although they denied this had anything to do with the copycat violence issues.
“Cartoons have a social responsibility but they are not for educating people,” a spokesperson told local media. “We have already started adapting the cartoon step by step and we are planning to invest hundreds of millions of yuan,” the company said, adding that it backed efforts by the government to regulate the industry better.
China’s top media watchdog, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, is coming up with new animation content standards which will be released by the end of the year.
The watchdog rules will include a ban on violence, following consultation with numerous Chinese animation companies, including Creative Power Entertaining.
“There is scope for improvement and we are willing to take on social responsibility. Our target has been always young children and we want good interaction. Creative Power Entertaining has never done any adult stuff and we don’t have any violent language. Even though it’s about the wolf catching the goat, in the end the goat always wins. There is lots of fighting and violence in Tom & Jerry and Kung Fu Panda.“
The show, which has run around 1,000 episodes, is by far the most popular Chinese animated TV show since it debuted in 2005.
Before Pleasant Goat, Chinese animation struggled and was routinely outdone by Spongebob Squarepants.
The franchise has also been an enormous success because it has managed to succeed in marketing merchandise — a rarity in piracy-heavy China.
The first movie in the franchise, The Super Snail Adventure, was released in 2009, and broke the domestic box-office record for a Chinese animated film. The fifth installment, I Love Wolffy 2, took in nearly $7 million in its first week when it was released in August.
In 2010, The Walt Disney Company secured a license to broadcast 100 episodes of the show on its Disney Channel in 46 countries and regions.