NPR reporter accuses Shanghai World Expo mascot of being plagiarized

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Shanghai World Expo Bureau held the press conference on April 23 to help testing Expo news center’s operations.  Unexpectedly an American female reporter from National Public Radio in Shanghai, Louisa Lim (Lin Mulian 林慕莲) shouted accusations that World Expo mascot Haibao was plagiarized from an American cartoon icon Gumby.  She also produced photos as evidence, the scene suddenly turned chaotic.

20100424_louisa_lim Reporters and TV stations all quickly snapped pictures of the female reporter, Expo board propaganda Minster Xu Wei who was sitting on the podium at the time became very awkward because of what was happening.  Lousia Lim did not spare Xu Wei, she brought out two pictures and also accused that the style of the Chinese exhibition center building was plagiarized from buildings in Japan. Then she picked up the tape recorder and microphone and rushed to the podium, asking Xu Wei for comments on the two plagiarism incidents.  At the same time both Chinese and foreign media swarmed in and surrounded the podium.

This  speculation was not news, as early as 2007 the creator of Haibao Wu Yongjian (巫永坚) has been questioned by Netizens of the Chinese blogosphere of being influenced by Growing Pains, the classic 80s American TV show which was shown in China in the late 80s and early 90s and became overwhelmingly popular throughout the nation.  What’s on the wall of one of the main characters Ben Seaver’s room was this American Cartoon icon, Gumby. 

After the news broke out, the original designer Wu Yongjian stated that it is a great insult to throw out arbitrary allegations of plagiarism, he is not ruling out the possibility of taking legal actions against the accuser. He stressed that when he was first designing Haibao, he never have seen the cartoon character Gumby.  Just because the creations of art are similar,  does not mean we can make random accusations of plagiarism. It is immoral.

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Haibao

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Gumby and his friends

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45 comments
  1. What’s the big deal? It’s hard if not impossible to do something truly original these days. Apart from that I think the stupid mascot looks more like something from a toothpaste commercial than the “American icon” Gumby. Pick your battles Louisa Lin.

  2. A bit overreacting and misunderstanding. Personally I see no reason why Wu wanted to plagiarize Gumby, given the idea of the design was mainly based on the Chinese character 人:

    http://www.gov.cn/ztzl/shsbh/content_875842.htm

    Yes, they look similar but if it could be called plagiarism then:

    1. Gumby also copied the Chinese 人 (or 大 if you count the arms).
    2. Vancouver Olympics logo coped the Chinese character 京
    3. Shanghai Expo logo (part of which resembles 世) copied Aladdin oil lamp
    4. China National Space Administration copied logos from Star Trek
    5. Many national flags have star(s)

  3. There is some similarity between the two, but not much. If you work hard enough, retrospectively you can find anything is similar to something earlier, and you can find the Bible has predicted everything.

      1. He means that (some) Christians, as one way of proving that the Bible is the word of God and that ‘armageddon’ and the second coming of christ is REAL, pick and choose words in the bible to fit an event that has happened recently (and most likely disastrous).
        They then say “look, here is evidence that the Bible is true, it predicted …(9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Tsunami, locust swarm etc)… when it said …(two towers will burn etc)…

        For example, I can say right now. “In the near future, on the eastern coast of a once great nation built on blood and tears there will be a great flood punishing its peoples’ decadence. ”
        A hundred years from now, a random flood overwhelms some random city and someone digs up my prediction, and lo and behold I become a prophet =)

        1. Wait, which city do you mean? I have friends in cities, I want to tell them to escape.

          1. He?she is just being hypothetical. He/she isn’t actually serious about accurately predicting a flood, am I right Lordfreimes?

  4. I also think the mascot, while similar, is not plagiarized.

    Louisa Lim is a sorry creature seeking attention.

    1. Until I see some evidence I do not believe the NPR reporter behaved as described. Show me the evidence and I’ll retract my statement.

  5. You are speaking non sense. There are really well-paid designers to create “original” mascotte. We are speaking of World Expo, not the Festival of Cucumber. Once upon a time, at least in other places, World Expo was one of the most important event. It influenced the development of several aspects of society including art and design education, international trade and relations, and even tourism. Gumpy and Haibao looks really similar. The designers just stretched Gumpy and changed color.

  6. I see no big similarity that would deserve that amount of fuss. Especially since we know the process that lead the design.

  7. “Just because the creations of art are similar, does not mean we can make random accusations of plagiarism.”
    Does he really say in the original Chinese that this is a random accusation. It rather seems to be quite pointed. This is China; nonetheless, is there suddenly a shortage of more relevant examples of plagiarism in the country?

  8. Indeed, that reporter is pitiful in her accusations.
    She could have come up with something better.
    However, I expect that in the future the officials are trained to better cope with such incidents – a bit of humor would put her in place, no need to “surround the podium”.

  9. What? An article says the mascot copied some crappy Gumpy (never seen or heard that in my life!) to perform a new crappy Haibao mascot?

    And the basis for the accusation is that both have two legs and one head? Some people are really bored in their work. How interesting, hum, hum. Next!

    1. China invented much more things than you can imagine in the last 3000 years. Thank Confucious Chinese are not as petty as some people to complain how others steal Chinese ideas.

      http://en.expo2010.cn/c/en_gj_tpl_85.htm

      The main structure of the China Pavilion, “The Crown of the East,” has a distinctive roof, made of traditional dougong or brackets, which date back more than 2,000 years. The dougong style features wooden brackets fixed layer upon layer between the top of a column and a crossbeam. This unique structural component of interlocking wooden brackets is one of the most important elements in traditional Chinese architecture. Dougong was widely used in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC-467 BC).

      1. Yeah but for them to put it in place of the Expo like the Canadians did. Makes it that much suspicious. Regardless if the invented it maybe building it at another venue would have been better. No will say, “oh that looks like the Canadian Pavilion doesn’t it?” Really no one care or knows about history that’s 2000 years old. It’s the obvious design similarities that will set people to compare rather than people say “WOW, that is Unique!!!” Especially for those of us who went the 67 expo.

        Next time china should do some checking around internationally before they display and advertise it as their creation. See if any one has done or is doing the same thing so these issues with the Gumby and theme song won’t come up. Im pretty sure someone mentioned the Pavilion somewhere if you do a search it, was 40 years ago.

        The pandas were great for the Olympics. No one will ever take that idea in the future.

        1. What you have said is pretty ignorant and arrogant. Why can’t the Shanghai Expo use a design that roots in its culture and has nothing to do with Canada? The Chinese pavilion’s dougong style was dated thousands of years earlier than Canada’s establishment, has been prevailing through the two thousand years and only looks slightly similar to the Canadian one from outside. The design has rich meaning and is full of Chinese elements from environment to side to top and to interior. If it must be checked, it’s Canadian who should check if it ‘does look unique’ in the eyes of billions of Chinese people who were living in houses with dougong design for thousands of years. In summary, it’s the culture concept that gives designs meaning and spirit. Judging them solely based on exterior shape is misleading and ignorant.

        2. What the fuck are you saying? I’m a Canadian and even I know your just talking shit around.

          Chinese invented the pavilion in the first place. It’s an east asian architectural form in the first place, why the fuck can’t they put it on display under any circumstance?

          If anything, Canadians had an Asian inspiration. Which is already a fact for the 67 expo. Will you check your facts before you talk shit around here? And maybe your brains before doing that.

  10. It’s so obvious “Floosita Lim” is trying to promote herself – lets not pay attention to her.

  11. Cry babies. And anyway I can’t believe a man was paid to come up with that mascot. It must have took him about 2 minutes. Oh! He is Chinese sorry. It must have taken him several months to come up with that mascot, after carefully considering Chinese 5000 years of harmonious culture, history and smoking.

    NPR is a liberal (radio) rag anyway.

  12. No one has paid attention to the fact that Wu Yongjian, the designer, is actually from Taiwan?

  13. I also thought Haibao looked like Gumby.

    I remember seeing Eddie Murphy dressed up like Haibao on Saturday Night Live. There are even photos of him on Google.

    It doesn’t matter if China copied this cartoon character. It’s just a joke. lol

  14. The second I saw Haibo a year ago I thought “wow, that’s Gumby!”. It’s possible that Haibo’s creator didn’t knowingly copy Gumby but …

    I find the description of Louisa Lim’s actions at the press conference to be questionable. She doesn’t normally act the way she is described. The article writer seems to be the one looking for a fight.

    Whether any of the accusations are true or not, the fact is that China has set itself up to invite accusations of copying intellectual property. If China really took intellectual property rights protection SERIOUSLY, it wouldn’t be under constant suspicion. China is now reaping the “rewards” of years of allowing the theft of the world’s intellectual property.

  15. How are they similar? They look extremely different to me….

    Its just a matter of time anything created with a head, a pair of hands, and a pair legs will be accuse of copying.

  16. I think Louisa Lin is mentally retarded! I think she got an IQ problem. I am Chinese American, and I can see that there is some measure of similarity, like should I say, a human like shape with four limbs. So Louisa, every time, somebody comes up with another four limb equivalent, will you call that plagiarism? Tell me if you are that clever, where is the possibility for people to make creative art when you make your rather silly baseline Gumbo shape as the basis for attacking another design that is also four limb? ( BTW Gumbo ‘plagiarise’ our human shape, so Louisa, go sue the Gumbo designer, oh ye idiot!) Next time somebody make another design that have four limbs, will you say that is plagiarism?

    You are not very intelligent are you? Or somebody used you, somebody have an agenda to give a black eye to the Chinese government. I suspect you may be a Falun Gong type character, China can never do anything right with people like you! I dare anti China folks to read this! From somebody with NO AGENDA, no bias whatsoever, just pissed !

  17. Gawd…deport Louisa now…’nuf said.
    What an idiot.
    The only thing they’ve actually plagiarized ‘so far’ is that song.

    The damn mascot resembles a gummy bear more than gumby FFS.

  18. While Ms. Lim could have handled the issue more delicately, the recent discussion regarding the mascot, song, etc has cast a bright light on the difference between China (in this case) and countries that truly respect intellectual property rights. No amount of feigned indignation on China’s part can replace true, vigorous enforcement of such. True or not, the recent accusations are easily understandable considering China’s standing as the world’s greatest counterfitter of other’s work.

    Are we to understand this in the same context as China’s arguments on the environment? That is, that as a “developing country” they should be permitted to continue to pollute without regulation or controls of any kind. I reject this argument. Clearly, China has long since risen to the level of the dozen most powerful countries in the world. It is time for China to recognize that this status involves not just rights but also responsibilities.

  19. I don’t see it as an issue for the similarities. Think of Pepsi and Coke. They both are sodas. Both Sodas are carbonated soft drinks. Why don’t people bitch about Pepsi or Coke?

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