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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year is a Mandarin-language musical that mixes live-action and animation; it's subtitled in English for U.S. release. The story revolves around family members demonstrating -- through songs and stories -- the traditions, crafts, and food of the Chinese New Year to two young siblings. The live-action scenes are broken up by animated vignettes of popular preschool TV character Peppa Pig, similar to the TV series. Some people argue that the show promotes rude behavior in children, but little of that is evident here, other than adults kowtowing to a grumbly toddler and a "clumsy" daddy. Positive messages about celebrating differences, working together, and learning self-control abound -- but unfortunately, it's a tough movie to take young kids to see if they don't understand Mandarin. The subtitles zip by pretty fast, so you need to be a fast reader to keep up. But for little children who do speak or are learning Mandarin, it's ideal -- especially because the Chinese subtitles are also shown on-screen to reinforce what they're hearing.
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What's the story?
In PEPPA CELEBRATES CHINESE NEW YEAR, siblings Tang Yuan and Jiao Zi are visited by both sets of their grandparents to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The family teaches the children all of the holiday's customs, while also sharing several stories about Peppa Pig. This live-action musical is broken up with Peppa Pig cartoon shorts that resemble the Nick Jr. TV series. The dialogue is entirely in Mandarin, with English and Mandarin subtitles.
Is it any good?
This feature hits the mark as a way to understand the holiday and why it's so important in Chinese culture. The live-action story follows a couple and their two children welcoming out-of-town grandparents to celebrate. During the course of the day, they talk and sing about the importance of marking the Lunar New Year with family, taking joy in cleaning up, and how to do crafts like making paper-cut designs and cooking dumplings. The elation of receiving a red envelope and participating in the dragon dance, and the spectacular fireworks display are all depicted with wonder, making the excitement relatable to a child. For the preschool set, it's ideal: bright, colorful, musical, and simple but thorough. Young children tend to prefer animation, so the film smartly breaks up the live-action storyline with a Peppa Pig animated short that introduces new characters the Panda twins. This format provides comforting familiarity to children who watch the Nick Jr. series and will keep them engaged longer. Still, 80 minutes is a long time for little ones to sit still (and for parents to endure).
While Peppa Pig is a British production, Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year was intended for the Chinese market and then offered to American audiences as an afterthought. The film doesn't always connect with a Western sense of humor. And, as brilliant as the film is for kids who speak/understand Mandarin, it's not going to work as well for those who don't. The dialogue is entirely in Chinese; while English subtitles are provided, the words change at a pace that's too quick for newer readers -- and many English-speaking Peppa fans aren't yet reading at all. But the movie could be a great tool for kids who are studying Mandarin. Since Mandarin subtitles are displayed above the English ones, it offers a good opportunity to practice comprehension and truly appreciate what the Chinese New Year is all about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the traditions involved in celebrating the Lunar New Year. How are they similar to or different from other holidays your family might celebrate? Why do you think it's such a significant holiday for the Chinese?
What were the ways the family tried to attract good luck in Peppa Celebrates the Chinese New Year? Do you believe in luck?
Parents, talk about the visit to the children's store. Kids, is this how you feel when you have money to spend? Since Peppa Pig stuffed animals are on display, do you think the movie is trying to get you to want to buy Peppa Pig toys?
How does the grandmother wearing the scarf show self-control when it comes to the other grandmother trying to take all the attention? Why do you think the grandma in the flower kimono tries to compete with her for the grandchildren's attention? Do you ever try to take the attention away from a friend or sibling? Why do you think we sometimes do that?
The parents are hesitant to trust the children with valuables. How do two sets of siblings -- the Panda twins and Tang Yuan and Jiao Zi -- prove they can be trusted? Why do you think parents are reluctant to trust kids with money or expensive items?
- In theaters: February 6, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: February 4, 2020
- Cast: Michelle Wai, Yawen Zhu, Yun Liu
- Director: Dapeng Zhang
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Holidays, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Self-control
- Run time: 81 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: March 3, 2021
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