Hong Kong Cancels “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” Theatrical Release

The theatrical release of the low-budget slasher movie “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” in Hong Kong was abruptly canceled just two days before its scheduled release, with no explanation offered.

Public Domain Day, celebrated on January 1st each year, marks the expiration of copyrights for works published a certain number of years ago.

Suspicions have been raised that the film may have crossed one of Hong Kong’s increasingly complicated political red lines, as the Winnie the Pooh character is unflatteringly perceived to have a physical resemblance to China’s president, Xi Jinping.

Online searches for Winnie the Pooh are heavily censored within mainland China, and Winnie the Pooh products are not distributed.

A Twisted Take on a Beloved Children’s Classic

Produced by the UK’s Jagged Edge Productions and written, directed, and produced by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey” takes the beloved children’s characters created originally by A. A. Milne and turns them into creatures of bloody horror.

The film follows Pooh and Piglet as they go on a rampage after Christopher Robin abandons them for college.

The film was to be distributed in Hong Kong by indie outfit VII Pillars and was scheduled for release on Thursday.

Distributor Announces Cancellation

On Tuesday evening, VII Pillars announced the cancellation of the movie’s Hong Kong and Macau release on Facebook, apologizing for the disappointment and inconvenience.

According to Frake-Waterfield, the film had already been approved by Hong Kong’s censors and even had a screening before it was suddenly removed from multiple cinema chains.

Hong Kong Government Denies Involvement

Culture Secretary Kevin Yeung stated that the Hong Kong government was not involved in the decision and that the distributor’s decision was its own.

However, Ray Fong, executive at VII Pillars, pointed the finger at cinema operators, saying they were notified by cinemas on Monday that the film could not be exhibited on March 23 as scheduled.

Public Domain Day and the Film’s Genesis

Public Domain Day, celebrated on January 1st each year, marks the expiration of copyrights for works published a certain number of years ago.

The US copyright limit is 95 years, while in the UK, it is 70 years.

In 2022, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh reached its 95-year copyright limit in the US, allowing anyone to use and depict the character as they wished.

Rhys Frake-Waterfield seized this opportunity to create a horror film based on the character.

A Global Phenomenon

Originally intended as a streaming release with a single-day theatrical showing in the US, the film gained unexpected online virality, leading to its rollout in cinemas worldwide.

In Mexico, the film premiered on January 29 and reached number four at the box office in its first week, earning a reported $700,000.

This success bodes well for its upcoming releases in other countries, including the US, where it is screening in more than 1,500 theaters.

A Sequel and More Childhood-Ruining Concepts

Despite the outrage and controversy surrounding the film, its success has already greenlit a sequel. Frake-Waterfield is also working on other horror concepts based on beloved childhood characters, such as Bambi and Peter Pan.

With a notepad filled with ideas, the filmmaker is ready to explore new and exciting twists on classic stories, tapping into a unique niche in the horror genre.

Craig Miller

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