For many Chinese who were born after 1970s, watching Chinese animation, mostly produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio, was a remarkably beautiful and memorable part of their childhood.
With their refined brush strokes and fountain of colors and creativity, Chinese animated films are well-known worldwide for its unique artistic style, so called the “Chinese School”. It has a history of over 90 years, starting with the Wan Brothers, especially Wan Laiming (1900-1997), the Walt Disney of China, and his twin brother Wan Guchan (1900-1995), who started to produce Chinese cartoon films in the 1920s.
The Wan brothers, who are regarded as the founders and pioneers of the Chinese animation industry, believed that Chinese animation should be instructive, logical and thought-provoking besides being entertaining to its audience. They wanted to emphasize the development of an animation style that was uniquely Chinese. This rigid philosophy stayed with the industry for decades. And animations were essentially an extension of other facets of Chinese culture and art.
The stories often come from childrenâ€™s stories, fairy tales and Chinese folklores. Then the stories were projected into films with a fantastic, humorous, and vivid appeal by a special artistic approach.
The artistic styles include both puppet animation and drawn animation, with a particular expertise in adapting popular visual styles (paper-cuts, soft water-and-ink brush painting, Chinese Lunar New Year style wood-cuts or nianhua and so on) for animated film.
For these reasons and more, Chinese animated films have earned more than 200 national & international film festival awards. It is one of the Chinese film genres winning the most international prizes.
The following titles are some of the most famous masterpieces that represent the highest level of Chinese animation in technique innovation and aesthetic expression. They are also typical representatives of Chinese culture and art.
The story is about a general who returns home to glory and prosperity after a victorious military campaign. The king rewards him and claims that all enemies will be intimidated by the general. From then on, the general no longer practice martial arts.
He eats, drinks, lives the glamorous life, and didn’t bother anymore with sharpening his weapons. When the enemy one day returns, his own arrogance led to his defeat and eventually to the downfall of whole nation.
Although The Proud General was heavily influenced by Disney from the perspective of character design, movement and storytelling point of view, there were a lot of typical Chinese elements: the music are derived from Beijing Opera; the clothing, architecture, and props do have a strong sense of Chinese traditional influence, the film was one of the first films to use the art of water ink painting in a lengthy production.
Pigsy Eats Watermelon(1958)
In 1958 the Wan brothers created a new animation film technique based on the folk art paper-cut technique and this film was one of the first to utilize the method.
The main character was Zhu Bajie, the Chinese folklore character from the Classic literature Journey to the West. Though the story was considered more of a spin-off. The character was used, since pigs were often associated with greed in the culture.
Language and culture
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