Enterprising online vendors in China are proving that it’s never too early to cash in on a blockbuster movie… even if they don’t have the rights to it.

Check these items out. Do they look familiar?

It’s a pig… it’s an air blower… it’s Peppa! (Picture: Taobao)

If you think it looks like a strange, metallic version of Peppa Pig, well… yeah. That’s exactly what they are.

They’re actually air blowers. If you don’t know what those are, the hand-operated types are often found in rural households, used for starting a fire on the stove. They typically cost under US$5 each on Taobao. But slap on Peppa’s good name and now they’re five times that price.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba -- the operator of Taobao.)

It’s all down to the viral phenomenon called “What’s Peppa” that’s taking China by storm. It was triggered by a roughly five-minute promotional video for “Peppa Celebrates Chinese New Year”, a full-length movie featuring the British cartoon darling Peppa Pig that’s coming to Chinese cinemas on the first day of the Lunar New Year -- which, appropriately enough, begins the Year of the Pig.

The promotional video became a sensation in its own right, because it features one adorable grandfather’s quest to decipher his grandson’s gift request: “Peppa”. He eventually finds out from his neighbor that, when an air blower is painted pink, it looks just like Peppa Pig.

(And so that’s why the grandfather who bought a small child a household appliance as a gift is actually an amazing grandfather and not a terrible one.)

As seen on TV: The Peppa blower. Is it just me or is Peppa drawn like Picasso? (Picture: 小猪佩奇过大年/Alibaba Pictures/Entertainment One)

It didn’t take long for sellers on Taobao to take advantage of this. There are, of course, pink air blowers for sale -- but also sweatshirts, T-shirts, tote bags, wall decorations, and embroidered handkerchiefs, all featuring pink air blowers. And to be honest, none of that is particularly surprising though -- we all know Taobao is the place to look for things you had no idea you even wanted.

If you want to impress your date, this is your chance… (Picture: Taobao)

Peppa Pig has a surprisingly subversive history in China. After winning the hearts of millions of Chinese preschoolers, it’s also become associated with gangsters after a man posted a photo of himself with Peppa drawn on his back like a tattoo.

That image became an instant meme and inspired many others to pair Peppa Pig accessories with street looks. Last year, Peppa was briefly banned as a search term on China’s version of TikTok, known as Douyin.    

So the next time you see a Chinese thug carrying a little pink air blower down the street, you’ll know exactly why.