The Gumbygate Scandal: China’s Haibao versus America’s Gumby
The Shanghai Expo is a grandiose world fair being held on the banks of the Huangu River in Shanghai, China, from May 1 up until October 31. According to Wikipedia, it will be the largest and most expensive Expo ever held. As of late April, it appears that it may also be the most controversial.
At the center of the controversy is the Shanghai World Expo’s mascot, Haibao, who many claim bears a striking resemblance to the US-based, animated superstar known as Gumby.
The issue first came to light on April 23, when during a Shanghai Expo press conference, NPR foreign correspondent Louisa Lim accused Haibao’s creator, Wu Yongjian, of blatantly plagiarizing Gumby. According to Lim, the similarities between Haibao and Gumby— shape, eyes, hair, etc.—are far too many to be mere coincidence.
In addition, some bloggers speculate that Wu may have first discovered Gumby from watching Growing Pains, a late-80s/early-90s US sitcom that later blossomed throughout China. Featured smack dab in the middle of main character Ben Seaver’s room is none other than Gumby himself.
According to Jonathan Adams at AOL news, however, Wu “strongly denied plagiarism, saying he had not seen the Gumby character before conceiving Haibao.” He even cited the possibility of filing legal charges against all the accusers, especially Lim.
Expo spokesman Xu Wei also shared his input, saying to NPR, “Haibao was unveiled a long time ago. If anyone thinks that their copyright has been violated, that person would already have used legal means to address this by now.”
The irony is that Wu apparently also plagiarized from Xinxiang/Henan HAIBAO Electrical Appliance Company, whose logo is a near-identical match to Haibo. According to the Associated Press, however, company officials are delighted at the free publicity. “Frankly, it was a surprise for us, and the biggest-ever advertising for free,” said an unnamed spokesman.
Regardless, it looks like Wu has a lot of explaining to do!
Below is a more in-depth look at the Gumbygate Scandal. Unfortunately for our English speakers, it is entirely in Chinese.