Peppa Pig, the children's favourite that became a £400m hit in the City

The show is now seen in 180 countries, and a theme park, Peppa Pig World, opened in April in the New Forest

Tom Peck
Thursday 15 September 2011 00:00
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In a little house on top of a hill, Peppa Pig lives a modest life, at home with her parents and her little brother George, playing outside with her best friends Suzy Sheep, Danny Dog and Emily Elephant. Her neighbours could scarcely know the five-year-old anthropomorphic piglet is worth £360m.

The cartoon pig overtook Thomas the Tank Engine earlier this year as the UK's most popular pre-school toy. Now the company which owns the rights to the show, Entertainment One, has confirmed it is considering a number of takeover offers.

In a statement, it said: "The board of Entertainment One notes the recent press speculation and confirms that it is considering its strategic options, which may include a sale of the company in response to interest it has received from various parties."

The move is merely the latest step in the stratospheric ascent of Peppa since the wholesome adventures of her family were first broadcast on Channel 5 in May 2004. The 150 five-minute long episodes are now shown in more than 180 countries across the world.

The refrain of the show's theme elicits an almost Pavlovian response in the parents of young children who have heard the tune (if it can be called that). In April, a theme park called Peppa Pig World opened to the public in the New Forest.

The attraction boasts seven rides and various indoor and outdoor play areas, as well as the Muddy Puddles water area where deliriously joyful children can recreate Ms Pig's favourite pastime – splashing around in mud.

Produced by the London animation studio Astley Baker Davies, the show was taken up by the Cartoon Network in the US in 2005. It has since moved to Nick Jr, where it is shown daily and is one of the pre-school channel's top 10 programmes. A licensing deal with Fisher Price means Peppa Pig toys will be in US shops this Christmas.

But Peppa, whose onscreen life usually revolves around everyday activities as swimming, playgroup or a trip to her grandparents, has not remained entirely free of controversy. In the first two series she did not wear a seatbelt as she was driven around by her father, the bearded, booming-voiced Daddy Pig.

After receiving several complaints, Astley Baker Davies hastily animated one – and even added it to the offending past scenes.

She has even dipped a trotter into the murky world of politics. Just before the 2010 general election, the then Business Secretary Lord Mandelson was left feeling "intensely pig-sick" after Peppa pulled out of her commitment to be part of Labour's launch of its mini-manifesto for families.

She had previously been involved in publicity work for Sure Start centres, but come the election campaign her rights owners decided it was important to remain impartial. "Peppa Pig is a well-known fan of Sure Start children's centres," a spokesperson for Entertainment One said, "but, in the interests of avoiding any controversy, we have agreed she should not attend."

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