This Tuesday morning at the Beauval zoo, it was frozen cakes on three floors and a “bamboo party” to celebrate the first birthday of the panda twins Yuandudu and Huanlili. Too for cubs? “Certainly not”, will answer the hundreds of visitors specially come for the occasion. “We opened the zoo doors at 8 a.m., but some have been in the queue for 7 a.m. There were some dressed as pandas from head to toe and some even had real tattoos of them, ”recounts to 20 minutes Rodolphe Delord, director of the park, evoking a real “panda mania”.
While the park welcomed 600,000 visitors a year in 2011 before the arrival of the first panda the following year, it now has two million. “Whether in France, in Europe or around the world, I don’t know an animal that fascinates so much,” adds the director. It must be said that between brand logos, films or countless mugs, bags, stuffed animals, jewellery, bathrobes and other clothing, it is clear that the panda has more fame than the sugar glider. [bien que l’on soit sur un « hiiiiiiiiiiii » à 120 décibels sur l’échelle de l’hystérie quand il saute].
According to trend specialist Cécile Poignant interviewed by 20 minutes, “for a trend to register in a strong and visible way, you need a range of reasons”. Or, in the case of the panda, “there is a bouquet of actions that converge on him and make him successful.” The expert identifies five major ones. The first dates back to the Maoist era, when China began to offer pandas as gifts to certain countries with which it wanted to start good relations. “It’s called panda diplomacy. In France, she gave one under Pompidou in 1973.”
Although China stopped this practice in 1984, it continues to rent pandas to parks in exchange for large sums of money and donations to associations. Animals also remain a political issue. “All the presidents came to see them at the zoo, recalls Rodolphe Delord. And during Emmanuel Macron’s last trip to China, where I was on the trip, he had a discussion about pandas with his counterpart. »
A movie hero
The panda also became a symbol when in 1961, the founders of the WWF association chose it as their logo. “Since bouille is the figure of an organization present in a hundred countries with nearly five million members and which defends the rights of animals and nature”, summarizes Cécile Poignant. Amusing parallel: at the Zoo de Beauval we are also assured that it is the revenue produced by the pandas that makes it possible to finance the conservation of other animals in danger.
Today, the success of an animal born as often from a movie to the cinema. “We remember the explosion in sales of clown fish after Nemo or even the enthusiasm around the Jack Russels with the film The artist “recalls Cécile Poignant. For the panda, it is undoubtedly the release in 2008 of Kung-Fu Panda (DreamWorks) which participated in its success story. Proof that we never tire of the hero, the fourth part of the saga was released this summer on Netflix.
It always comes back to opposable thumbs
For the fourth beam, the trend specialist points to the character of the animal itself. “We have a form of anthropomorphic projection on him. He is a vegetarian, human-sized with his 65 meter. He has six fingers, but almost an opposable thumb with which he has developed the ability to grasp bamboos. As for his nonchalant, unaggressive demeanor, clumsiness and good-natured demeanor, they made him an internet meme star.
Finally, from a marketing point of view, the panda has a very graphic interest. Starting with these two unique colors: black and white. “Rather rare in animals”, emphasizes Cécile Poignant who also indicates her side “easy to draw and therefore easily recognizable and identifiable” for all generations.
A big difference with, for example, the llama or the unicorn, also in the top 10 trending animals. So many criteria that suggest that the panda remains the king of hype, the Yves Saint Laurent of animals and that it is not about to be dethroned. Sorry chinchillas.