Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 14:59 UK

Peppa power

Peppa Pig and family
Pigs here: Peppa, second left, and her family

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC News Magazine

She's been described as an international star who is bigger than Madonna, and has a following in 180 countries. But Peppa Pig has been causing a stir after pulling out of a Labour Party election event. So, just who is she and why is she so popular?

She is a global megastar with a following most pop stars, politicians and business leaders would kill for.

Such is her appeal that the Labour Party was hoping Peppa Pig, a diminutive porcine cartoon star, would appear at an election event.

The character has been helping to promote the Sure Start scheme, a government-funded programme which brings a number of early years children's services together under one roof.

Peppa Pig
180 countries - she is watched in
£100m retail revenue in the UK
225,000 copies of computer game sold on the DS
83,000 - circulation for the Peppa Pig magazine
60 venues - for her stage tour
3m DVDs sold in the UK
2m books sold in the UK

But despite her ever present rosy-cheeks, the children's TV character was not about to adopt the red rose of Gordon Brown's party. E1 Entertainment, which licenses the cartoon, said it wanted to avoid controversy and withdrew rights for the character's use.

Even Lord Mandelson couldn't hide his disappointment at not being joined on the platform by the famous pig. And schools secretary Ed Balls, who has appeared alongside her, described Peppa as a "global media star, acclaimed around the world".

Peppa Pig is the eponymous star of a show which first aired in the UK on Channel Five in 2004. Unlike many children's programmes it didn't come from a big budget production house, but from London-based animator Astley Baker Davies.

Hairy herd

Yet with so many children's cartoons on the market, what is it about Peppa that has made it stand out? Animation writer Alan Gilbey says part of the charm is the homespun feel of the animation.

"Their graphic style is not that commercial," explains Mr Gilbey, who has worked on Frankenstein's Cat and the new Pinky and Perky. "Peppa looks different. It's simple and appealing and it's got a bit of cred to it. It's a nice looking show and doesn't really look like anything else."


Mandelson and Balls on Peppa Pig-gate

While there is no formula when it comes to making a cartoon a runaway success, Mr Gilbey says its connection to ordinary family life grounds much of its appeal.

The cartoon centres around a five-year-old half-talking, half-snorting pig, Peppa, and her family - younger brother George and parents Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig.

They mightn't be human but essentially this is a "a contemporary family getting on with it," says Mr Gilbey. "It reflects a family dynamic, and is done a whimsical way. Parents are very happy to watch it, because there's an extra knowingness about it."

One plot line Mr Gilbey says sums up this sense of satire is when Peppa plays with her father's computer and ends up crashing it. It's a scene, which he says illustrates the everyday frustrations of life.

Bafta winning

Mother-of-three Georgina, from St Leonards-on-Sea, agrees.

"It's a very realistic take on modern life. They feature things like sibling rivalry, mum going to work, relationships between parents - even in-family jokes like the size of Dad's tummy.

"It's very normal and normalises the stuff going on at home for most people."

Peppa has both human and animal characteristics and is depicted as a slightly bossy character. She is often seen jumping into muddy puddles and likes ballet, as well as playing with her friends who include rabbits and dogs. It is the sense of everyday about Peppa which this mother says makes the show so watchable for parents.

Peppa Pig
Famous in 180 countries

"The family is a realistic role model because they have difficulties. It's also humorous for parents because you see all those issues from the point of view of a child," she adds.

Peppa Pig's fame stretches well beyond TV screens, with everything from wellies, umbrellas and duvet covers bearing her image. The licence for the product is so huge it netted more than £100m in the UK last year, excluding DVD sales.

There is a touring stage show and a spin-off magazine, which was one of the top 10 most-read children's titles of the past year.

This isn't the first time she's made headlines - in January her creators were criticised for showing her in a car without a seatbelt on. They've since apologised and promised to re-animate the offending scenes.

Below is a selection of your comments

I wonder why a child's cartoon character would in any way affect adults voting in the upcoming elections? Does Labour say we are children? After I realised this, I was amused for quite a while. Will Gordon Brown be appearing next to Thomas the tank engine next week? Or Winnie the Pooh?
C Tyallie, Bridgend

It was Mummy's computer Peppa crashed, not Daddy's. Daddy was making dinner downstairs. Mummy was working. Trust me, my daughter loves Peppa Pig. I've seen them all numerous times. And part of its appeal is that Mummy does, in fact, work, although how she does it with Peppa and George on her lap is another thing!
Emma, York

We love watching Peppa Pig as a family. My daughters (aged 5 and 2) absolutely adore Peppa and George, and my wife and I laugh at the antics of their parents. There is such a lot of sense in the storylines and we often find ourselves reminding each other of our favourite episodes.
Philip Green, Potters Bar, UK

Even though my niece really loves Peppa Pig, I really don't think that any political parties not just in the UK but all around the globe to get people to to vote for the people who are in those parties by putting forward a children's TV character like Peppa. If children have a right to vote, how are they going to do it? Children are simply too young to vote and most of the adults don't watch children's TV shows. So next time you want people to vote for your party, don't put a children's popular TV character to get some interest because that's not really how you get people's attention and children don't understand anything about elections.
Sarah, Hemel Hempstead

My kids love Peppa - the simple style and bright colours really appeal to them. Daddy Pig gets a bit of a hard-time though often coming across as a typical clumsy male figure who loses things, forgets things and generally could not survive without Mummy Pig. This is a common portrayal of fathers in children's TV as well as adverts. Now if only I could find my car keys. Silly Daddy Pig!
Chris Northants, Northampton

What a lot of piffle. Kids as young as 18 months love Peppa. I doubt it is anything to do with the contemporary family setting or the little flights of whimsy. It is probably more to do with the bright pastel colours, the clear, simply drawn characters and the gentle near-absence of plots. Mr Bull: Feeling poorly are we, Goldie? Peppa: She can't talk. She's a fish.
Alex, Dublin

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