Provost Series Brings History of Chinese Animation

Screengrab via Youtube Movies "Big Fish Begonia" is considered one of the longest running animated movies of all time, taking over seven years to be made.

Shavonne McLamb

Staff Writer

Wonder how Chinese animation got started? The history of Chinese animation was explored during the Provost Colloquium on September 25, 2019.

Students and faculty packed Beers Lecture Hall to hear Professor Xiaoting Ji explain how Chinese animation became what it is today. Xiaoting Ji is a professor of Design at Shanghai Normal University in Shanghai, China. She also teaches at Xiejin Film and Television Art College.

The lecture was broken down into three parts: History, Classifying Chinese Animation and showcasing Professor Ji’s students’ work.

Part one, titled Chinese Shadow Puppetry and Revolving Scenic Lantern, told the history of Chinese animation. Professor Ji starts off by explaining to the audience about who started Chinese animation and the films that created the genre.

The Wans brothers were pioneers of Chinese animation and they made the first animation film. Their first short animation film was called “Uproar in the Studio” which was a silent black and white film. The Wans Brothers’ first color, sound film was “The Camel’s Dance” in 1935. It was based on the Aesop fables.

The Shanghai Animation Film Studio was established in the 1950s. The first Chinese ink wash short animation in China was titled “Where is Mama?” (1960) about a school of tadpoles wanting to find their mother. In the film, viewers can hear traditional Chinese musicians.

One of the studio’s first short films was called “The Magic Pen”. It was the first puppet animation film; the creatures were made of wood. Another film produced by the studio was “The Proud General.” This film was based on traditional Chinese Opera.

The most famous animation film came in 1964 with “The Monkey King.” It took 2 years to create the basic design and was hand-drawn.

A great achievement in Chinese animation came in 1982 when “The Three Monks” won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. The short film was produced by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio.

The first original animated series came in the 1980s with “Inspector Black Cat”. In 2016, “Big fish Begonia” (2016) was the longest-running animation film until now. It took seven years to finish the film and it was released in 2D and 3D.

The second part of the presentation was titled Classify Chinese Animation. There are five different types of animation. The types of animation are Ink Wash animation, Silhouette animation, Origami animation, Puppet animation, and hand-drawn animation.

Ink wash animation is when the animators draw thousands of layers of design using Chinese art paper and the background usually doesn’t move.

Here are several (but not all) of the steps when it comes to Ink wash animation: designing the chapters, creating a storyboard, drawing the story, and coloring in the artwork.

Silhouette animation is creating the characters out of paper, cutting them out and then moving the pieces little by little (frame by frame). An example: “The Fox and Hunter.”

Origami animation is when characters are dimensional, hand-made paper material and shot frame by frame. An example of this animation is “The Cabbage.”

Puppet animation is 3 dimensional where characters are made of wood, plastic, cardboard, plaster, and rubber. It is cheap and shot frame by frame. An example of this style of animation is “Saving Mother” (1984). This film is very colorful.

Hand-drawn is also known as 2D animation. Animators use Chinese art paper, pens, and watercolor. An example of this style of animation is “Nine-Colored Deer” (1981).

The last part of the presentation was about Professor Ji’s students and their work in film.

Her school where she teaches has a Graduation exhibition every year. There are several steps the students must follow in order to participate in the exhibition.

Step one is when students meet with a professor, create a team of three to five students, and conduct a meeting every week.

Step two is to prepare the script. That would be four to five script drafts in a uniform format.

Step three is pre-design. Pre-Design is when the team creates characters and backgrounds for their movie.

Step four is when a storyboard must be created for the director, so he or she can have a clear vision of the project and where it is going.

Step five is preparing to shoot the film.

Step six is importing the data into the computer.

Step seven is when the team puts in the special effects and visuals.

Step eight is when the team gets together and tries to solve any foreseeing problems, finish the movie, and create a promotional movie poster.

The ninth and final step is presenting the film and having a Q and A session for the audience and faculty.

The characteristics of animation are as follows: Stop motion is frame by frame. 2D takes a lot of time and utilizes the software. 3D is like 2D but demands a different software. Ink wash animation is hand-drawn, with Chinese art paper.

The most enjoyable part for the audience was when Professor Ji showcased her students’ work to the audience. She displayed different types of animation to the audience.

Students and faculty were laughing during the presentations because of some of the work were relatable to the students in college life.

One example is about a male student exhausted while trying to work on his senior project on a beautiful day. He is stuck in his dorm and suddenly is disturbed by a pesky mosquito. He tries his best to kill it but he ultimately unsuccessful.

The second example is when two neighbors are bothering each other by their habits. One enjoys peace and quiet during the day, while he reads his book. His neighbor enjoys watching television loudly.

The two start to do petty things to bother each other and in the end, one knocks on the other’s door, talks, and then watch television and listen to music together.

Even though the lecture was long and the last hour seemed rushed, the audience seemed to really enjoy the presentation by Professor Ji.

They gave her loud applause and a few students stayed to talk to her afterward.

Graduate student, Amanda He said, “It was amazing. I loved it. She introduced Chinese animation in a different way.” It was an excellent presentation that both students and faculty were into.

The Provost Colloquium team did great approving of this presentation for the lecture series.

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