That Animated Yeti Movie 'Abominable' Violated a Ruling by The Hague, Somehow

The kids' movie has been banned in several countries for depicting a map of the South China Sea including the controversial "nine-dash line."
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Still via Dreamworks / Pearl Studio

There’s a new, easy way to tell the difference between Smallfoot and Abominable, two seemingly identical animated movies about a yeti that came out within a year of each other. The former stars Zendaya as Meechee, and the latter was banned in three countries for violating a ruling by the highest court in the UN.

Abominable is Dreamworks' feel-good tale of a tween in China who finds a yeti living on her roof, somehow figures out he came from Mount Everest, confusingly nicknames him "Everest," and embarks on a mission to take him home. Everest can also do magic. It's difficult to imagine a movie like that ginning up any sort of controversy, but Dreamworks found a way. The film depicts a map of the South China Sea including the "nine-dash line," a demarcation China baselessly, unilaterally uses to claim almost 90 percent of the contested waters. After Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan—which all share the sea with China—spent years speaking out against the line, The Hague finally ruled that it violated international law in 2016, and declared it invalid. Still, for whatever reason, Abominable decided to keep it in this scene:


The otherwise innocent, straightforward kids' movie has now been banned in three countries—Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines—for portraying the controversial map, Vulture reports. Malaysia offered to screen it if Dreamworks would just cut the map scene out, but the studio refused. (It's worth noting Dreamworks partnered with Pearl Studio, a Chinese-owned production company based in Shanghai, to make the movie.)

It seems easy enough to, you know, not depict a relatively obscure territorial line that breaks international law in a movie for seven-year-olds, but hey—what do we know? Maybe Dreamworks has its reasons, reasons just as opaque and inscrutable as the decision to make another animated yeti movie in the first place.

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