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China to embrace Peppa Pig theme parks by the Year of Pig

Peppa Pig characters Photo: Channel 5

Peppa Pig lovers in China have a reason to rejoice.

Entertainment One, the holder of the intellectual property right of British preschool animated series Peppa Pig, has announced plans to open two Peppa Pig World theme parks in China by 2019, the Chinese Year of the Pig, as the cartoon series has become popular among Chinese children since its broadcast debut in the country in 2015.

The two Peppa Pig World theme parks will be established in Beijing and Shanghai respectively and operated by Merlin Entertainment Group, which also runs Madame Tussauds wax museums and Legoland theme parks. Merlin Entertainment Group already operates two Peppa Pig theme parks in Italy and Germany respectively. Meanwhile, Peppa Pig's Adventure show will also be staged in China over the next three years.

Besides the open-air theme parks, Merlin Entertainment Group will also use the Peppa Pig brand to build indoor playgrounds, said Chen Jie, general manager of the company's China operations. Last year, Merlin Entertainment Group forged a partnership with Entertainment One, a global independent studio specializing in the development, acquisition, production, financing, distribution and sales of entertainment contents.

Merlin Entertainment Group is facing competition in the operation of Peppa Pig-branded indoor playgrounds in China. Betting on the strong attraction of Peppa Pig to Chinese children, some commercial property developers have built indoor recreational facilities associated with Peppa Pig in big shopping malls in the country's big cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Entertainment One is also enhancing Peppa Pig's influence in China by developing the brand's derivative products including toys, clothes and picture books.

In March, Entertainment One named China's leading toy maker Alpha Group as its master toy partner in an agreement, which said that an extensive new toy line will be introduced in 2018 that will contribute to the brand's growth in the Chinese market.

In April, an antique-style porcelain cup printed with a Peppa Pig character riding a bike under the backdrop of an obviously traditional Chinese landscape catapulted to fame on China's social media. The porcelain cup is designed by a Chinese artist, who has received some 500 comments a day and been asked by many Internet users about where the cup can be bought since he or she posted the photos of the design online.

Peppa Pig, which tells stories about a loveable piggy named Peppa who lives with her younger brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, made debut on the influential China Central Television's children's channel in September 2015. A month later, the award-winning cartoon series was available on the country's online video streaming platforms including iQiyi, Youku and Tudou, where the animated series has received 45 billion views as of March.

Experts said that the success of Peppa Pig in China should be attributed to the fact that the cartoon series, with each episode lasting for about five minutes, presents simple and humorous family stories, through which children can not only gain knowledge but also learn how to get along with family members. In 2012, however, some Australian viewers caviled at an episode for encouraging children to make friends with spiders given the toxicity of some common spiders inhabiting in Australia.

According to a fiscal report released by Entertainment One in November last year, revenues from sales of licensed products grew by 700 percent in China in the first half of the fiscal year 2017, as the consumer product lines expanded. The Chinese license agreements are expected to increase to 60 by the end of the fiscal year 2018 from 20 at the end of the fiscal year 2017, said the fiscal report. Global retail revenues from brands jumped to $1.2 billion period-on-period, mainly helped by the popularity of Peppa Pig in China, showed the fiscal report.

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