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Winnie-the-Pooh memes cause trouble for Kingdom Hearts 3 in China

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Oh, bother!

kingdom hearts 3 Square Enix/Disney

Chinese media has a weird ban on Winnie-the-Pooh, mainly because some Chinese netizens have trolled President Xi Jinping online with comparisons to the character. This actually has ramifications for Kingdom Hearts 3, which only two weeks ago confirmed Pooh Bear was joining the game.

As noticed earlier this week, some coverage of the game in China comically put a bright white burst over Pooh, the way skin magazines used to censor their more explicit parts. (I’m only speaking hypothetically; I’ve never seen such a magazine in my life.)

What’s the fuss? Well, our siblings over at Vox.com provided this explainer back in August when Christopher Robin was denied a premiere in China, a market Disney has depended on to do land-office bidness with its animated movies and Marvel properties. It has to do with chortle-worthy separated-at-birth comparisons such as this:

(L-R) Pooh Bear, Pooh pal, Pooh pooh-pooher, POTUS
screenshot/Weibo

and this:

Screenshot/Twitter

No one knows what this means for the game itself. Kotaku pointed out that other coverage (including by the same site that ran the white-flash censorship) has run screenshots of Kingdom Hearts 3 featuring Pooh with no apparent blowback. (Notably, the original page with the censored images now 404s.) So it’s important to remember the censorship so far has only been of screenshots and hasn’t been consistent.

Still, Chinese censors don’t play around when it comes to video games. There’s a freeze on new video games being approved for release in China as new licensing procedures are put into place, and it’s dragged on long enough that a company as big as Tencent has seen its stock price plunge by half.

Sony announced just last week that Kingdom Hearts 3 was going on sale in Hong Kong on Jan. 25, 2019 with a Chinese-subtled version “currently in development.”