An episode of the Chinese cartoon "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf." (YouTube)

BEIJING – China’s censors have instructed the nation’s cartoon producers and broadcasters to avoid vulgar and violent content, amid concerns that children were imitating scenes from popular shows. In May, two young brothers from Jiangsu province were badly burned after being tied to a tree by a third boy and set alight – allegedly imitating a scene from the popular cartoon, "Pleasant Goat and Big, Big Wolf." The show is about a clumsy wolf that tries to eat a group of goats but always fails.

Cartoon makers and broadcasters agreed to new guidelines on Saturday to make cartoons that promoted better values, in the interests of children’s mental development. “We focused too much on how to make the plots funny,” a cartoonist identified only by his surname Liu told the Global Times newspaper. “But we have made some changes since the cartoon began broadcasting, and we are making changes these days as requested by government organizations.” Lui is one of the makers of the Boonie Bears, about a lumberjack trying to log timber from a forest in northeast China who is thwarted by two bear brothers.

Liu told the Global Times that the “smelly black bear,” one of the two Boonie brothers, would now be known as the “little bear.” Plot lines in which the bears enter houses when the owners are not at home would be avoided.

Cartoons have drawn increased scrutiny after incidents such as the injuries to the two boys in Jiangsu. Makers of "Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf" were taken to court after the boys' father claimed the show had encouraged another boy to attack his two sons, ages 5 and 8.

The father assembled clips from more than 500 episodes of the cartoon to show that the wolf had been hit with a frying pan more than 9,000 times and the goat boiled more than 800 times. The show's second episode is embedded below; it ends with the sheep stuffing the wolf's mouth with dynamite, which sends him flying when it goes off:

The State Administration of Radio Film and Television said Saturday that cartoon makers should fulfill their “sacred duty” to promote the healthy growth of children, in a statement signed by 20 broadcasters and cartoon makers.

“Children are the future builders of the motherland, and they will undertake the course of socialism with Chinese characteristics," it added. "Their healthy growth is directly related to the health of the nation, its prosperity and destiny.” It also instructed cartoon makers “to avoid depicting selfishness, worship of money and hedonism, and prevent feudal superstition, pseudoscience, harmful thoughts and bad habits from poisoning children’s minds.”

The paper said detailed guidelines for the makers of Chinese cartoons would be introduced later this year.