The new, seemingly innocuous animated film “Despicable Me 2” by Universal Pictures has been denied release in mainland China, just after a successful opening in nearby Hong Kong, according to the website The Wrap. Media in China had been running regular stories about the film, so the decision to have it banned came as a surprise to many. Fans took to the Internet to express their frustration.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, analysts believe the decision may be part of official Chinese efforts to lessen the enthusiasm for imported animated features.
Netease Entertainment, a Chinese site, wrote that “Relevant departments believe that the film’s style is not too suitable for China’s young audience.”
The reference was mocked by netizens. “Relevant departments…” one wrote, “ha, ha.” Another remarked “Are the censors brain dead? The officials are a bunch of idiots.”
Censorship of foreign films is common in China, but audiences and netizens chafe against the restrictions.
The previous installment to the “Despicable Me” franchise, which was released three years ago, was also not released in China.
The recent decision potentially denies Universal Pictures tens of millions of dollars in box-office revenue.
“Despicable Me 2” grossed $3.2 million in Hong Kong, and nearly $600 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Hollywood studios are eager to enter the rapidly-growing Chinese film market, but it’s not clear that Chinese censorship officials feel the same way. This year, revenue from imported films shrunk by 21.3 percent from last year, as the authorities turned their focus to developing the domestic Chinese film industry. A stream of articles in newspapers also note Hollywood films being subject to forced alterations before they are allowed to be screened in China, or being censored entirely.