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    Creator of Beloved Cartoon Cat Abandoned His Own Pet, Fans Discover

    Artist Zhang Ping is in hot water after revealing that he abandoned the pet kitten that inspired his iconic character, Luo Xiaohei.
    Jul 04, 2024#animals

    Zhang Ping won legions of fans in China by creating the cartoon cat Luo Xiaohei — a beloved character that went on to feature in comics, animation series, and even a hit movie.

    But the artist is now facing a monumental backlash after revealing that he abandoned the pet kitten that inspired his most famous creation.

    Zhang, who also goes by the pen name MTJJ, has become arguably China’s most successful animator thanks to the success of his character Luo Xiaohei — an elfin spirit that assumes the form of a black cat with adorably large, round eyes.

    The web animation series “The Legend of Luo Xiaohei” became a massive hit in the 2010s, inspiring several successful spin-off webtoons and comics. In 2019, the prequel film “The Legend of Hei” debuted to rave reviews, taking 315 million yuan ($43 million) at the box office.

    The success of the movie led many to hail Zhang as one of the leaders of a Chinese anime revival. But the artist now finds himself the target of furious condemnation after becoming embroiled in a series of spats on Chinese social media.

    Zhang first got into hot water by calling out the developers of the upcoming video game “Black Myth: Wukong” for their alleged sexism. This led fans of the game to start a campaign targeting Zhang, trawling through his past media appearances for dirt.

    A few days ago, they hit the jackpot. In a 2019 interview, Zhang revealed that he had based the character of Luo Xiaohei on a stray cat that he had adopted as a kitten, but that he had “returned” the cat to the streets six months later.

    “It was a wild kitten. After raising it for a while, I found it was hard to domesticate,” Zhang said.

    The clip has since gone viral on Chinese social media — with a related hashtag receiving over 27 million views on the microblogging platform Weibo — and triggered a furious reaction from Luo Xiaohei fans.

    The revelation is particularly damaging given that in the series, Luo Xiaohei is adopted by a family and develops a close bond with them. The theme song of “The Legend of Hei'' even features a chorus that roughly translates as: “You’ll never have to roam the streets again.”

    “No more roaming? That’s ironic,” read one highly upvoted comment on Weibo.

    Many fans have called for a boycott of the upcoming sequel to “The Legend of Hei,” which is currently in production. Others have criticized Zhang for setting a bad example to cat owners, pointing out that animals rarely survive long after they have been abandoned.

    One Weibo user argued that Zhang should have given the cat to a friend or a shelter. “With his influence, that should be easy to do.”

    Polly Wei, a cat owner and fan of “The Legend of Hei,” told Sixth Tone that she had been shocked by the news that Zhang had abandoned his own pet.

    “Cats have their own independent emotions. Although they may seem indifferent to humans, they have their own logic and different ways of expressing love. You shouldn’t use whether a cat becomes affectionate as an excuse to abandon them,” said Wei, who adopted a stray cat herself.

    “It can be even more detrimental to animals when they are raised by humans and later abandoned, as they may not be able to adapt to being back on the streets,” she added.

    (Header image: A promotional image for “The Legend of Hei.” From Douban)