We don’t have a lot of cartoon-themed toys or clothes or other paraphernalia in our house; We don’t have a TV so, with a few exceptions, my children don’t recognize most of the popular characters anyway so it’s not really an issue. (Now, if Pixar were to produce a decent blockbuster based on the Monkey King, it might be a different story…) But that all changed this summer, when Xi Yang Yang (ie “Happy Sheep”) entered our lives. A Chinese friend and an uncle both gave our kids DVDs, comic books (the full set of 20+), action figures, keychains, etc etc of “Happy Sheep and the Big Bad Wolf,” China’s hottest animated series. They are really pretty ridiculous looking, the animation isn’t even good, and the storyline is a silly, Wile E. Coyote-Road Runner type cartoon about a group of sheep who are always trying to fend off the latest attacks by the evil but incompetent Big Bad Wolf. The violence is of the Acme explosives variety, yet, from what I can tell, without the creativity or cleverness of Chuck Jones’ characters. (I have to admit I haven’t watched much yet, and my husband says some of the stories are pretty entertaining.) But my kids are hooked. Even little T toddles around the house asking for “Yang Yang, Yang Yang!”. The full line of Xi Yang Yang products can be found on this site and the Wikipedia entry introduces all the characters. The series even has its own Facebook page. Scroll to the bottom of this post for clips of the animated series via YouTube.
China promoted the cartoon as a local product to compete globally with Kung Fu Panda. The fact that you have never heard of it means that they weren’t too successful. (They could start by improving the official English translation of the name, “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf.”) But it has apparently caught on in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and in our home. As L sits down to watch another episode, I have to remember, it’s good language practice…
Meanwhile, other American cartoons are a hit in China, especially Spongebob Squarepants (“Haimianbaobao”), who now has his own Chinese-language website. I also noticed on my last trip to Target that the PBS series Ni Hao Kai-lan, about the adventures of a Chinese-American girl, has its own line of merchandise. I wonder if Kai-lan will ever have the same mass appeal as Dora and Diego, her Spanish-speaking equivalents.
Clips of Xi Yang Yang (many more are available on YouTube by searching 喜羊羊与灰太狼):