World Policy Journal profiles cartoonist Pi San, who has created numerous popular animations featuring a little boy, Kuang Kuang, including a satirical take on a children’s song, Little Rabbit Be Good:
Pi San’s gift for subversive humor comes naturally. “I’ve had a lifetime of experience eluding censors,” he says with a laugh. When Pi San was a young boy growing up in China’s equivalent of Appalachia, his parents used to rap his knuckles with a ruler every time they found cartoons doodled onto his homework. The thumpings didn’t have the desired effect. Pi San continued to draw despite the censure—a pattern that endures today. He eventually turned his passion for cartoons into a career, founding an Internet animation company, Hutoon, in 2006.
Hutoon occupies the top floor of a defunct military electronics factory in “798,” a chic zone of art studios and galleries on the outskirts of Beijing. By day, Pi San and his staff produce music videos and Internet ads for Fortune 500 companies, along with a stylish animated Web series known as Ms. Puff. But by night—or whenever Pi San is moved by what he calls “the absurdity of everyday events in China”—he creates more provocative animations, many of them revolving around the misadventures of his alter ego, an impish little boy named Kuang Kuang.
Pi San’s first Kuang Kuang satire, in 2009, was an irreverent swipe at the education system called “Blow Up the School.” Using a childlike style reminiscent of “South Park”—Kuang Kuang’s circular head often transforms into a thought bubble—the animation was an instant sensation among Chinese youth, generating three million hits on its first day online. Government officials forced Pi San to pay a small fine for “inappropriate content,” but they didn’t seem to notice as more pointed Kuang Kuang animations appeared, spawning Pi San fan clubs on the Internet in nearly every Chinese province. “The government still tends to look at what I do as just cartoons, something funny for kids,” he says.
His videos, however, have many layers of meanings.
Read more satire from Chinese cyberspace, via CDT.