Fans cried “NO!” after Bing Dwen Dwen, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic mascot, spoke in a deep male voice.
Since its debut, baby panda mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, has captured the hearts of people all across China , and even throughout the world, with its simple and adorable look.
However, the fondness took a downturn after the mascot spoke with an “uncle voice” and a northeastern Chinese accent in a programme aired on Feb 8 by state broadcaster CCTV.
It happened during an interview with Chinese freeskier Yang Shuorui, when the reporter costumed as Bing Dwen Dwen posed questions and eventually removed the inflated suit to reveal his face.
“It’s a shock comparing the image of Bing Dwen Dwen with the voice,” commented one person on Weibo. “Luckily I haven’t bought it yet, otherwise I really can’t face it.”
“People don’t want to know that when they hug Bing Dwen Dwen, they’re holding a strange man,” another outraged person commented.
The CCTV programme was subsequently removed from the network’s website the day after it aired.
Many people also referenced US company Disney’s strict policy on actors portraying cartoon characters, saying that any cast member dressed as a mascot revealing their actual face in public is considered a “breach”.
The hashtag of #BingDwenDwenstartstalking on Weibo was quickly censored by authorities. However, posts criticising the broadcast of the reporter are still available, with one shared by more than 20,000 users.
Disappointed fans also flocked to Douyin to ask, “Why does Bing Dwen Dwen talk?” The official account of the 2022 Beijing Organising Committee (BOCWOG) then replied that the talking Bing Dwen Dwen was a “fake”.
The International Olympic Committee requires that mascots cannot be gender identified. Previously, the Procurator Daily reported that in a contract BOCWOG signed with the production team of the animated Olympic propaganda film “Me and My Winter Games,” there is a clause stating that Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the official mascot of the 2022 Winter Paralympics, should not speak and should be gender-neutral.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.