Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Archives for: February 2005, 12

Saturday, February 12, 2005

02:35:06 am , 423 words, 3353 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Te Wei

A long time ago I ran across a tape of various Chinese animated shorts, and recall being rather mystified and delighted by the experience of watching it. The variety was impressive, and the quality of what was presented was undeniable. It reminded me that there are undoubtedly animated treasures like this buried in the vaults of many countries. I've now managed to re-see most of the shorts of Te Wei 特偉, one of the most renowned of China's art animators, two of whose films were featured on that tape. I feel I must have been blind not to have been completely bowled over by the flawless artistry and refined sensibility of The Cowherd's Flute 牧笛 (1963) when I first saw it. Perhaps I've made progress. It feels close to both Norstein and even moreso Frederic Back, and predates them both by a decade or so. The animation is incredibly minute and delicate. The ox moves with an otherworldly beauty and serenity. The traditionally inspired watercolor backgrounds are perfectly matched to the animation, so much so that I'm extremely curious to know how he did it. Two other films that came later that took their own approach to this I've mentioned before - Toei's Taro the Dragon Boy and Tadanari Okamoto's The Soba Flower of Oni Mountain. I would also be curious to know more about what was happening around Te Wei politically when he made this film, which is as pure and clear as spring water. But the film that impressed me the most was one I hadn't seen before, one made more than two decades later, his last as far as I'm aware: The Feelings of Mountains and Water 山水情 (1988). The film perfectly evokes the fragile beauty of the mythical mountains and rivers of ancient Chinese paintings, using a minimum of strokes to achieve the maximum effect - much in little indeed. Every moment works perfectly, with music and visuals combining to create a truly seamless and inspiring 20 minutes. This is among the most memorable animated shorts I've seen, and it's a wonder it isn't more well known. Te Wei made at least three other films, including the well known Where's Mama?, which also deserve to be seen. He established his own totally convincing and original approach to animation based on traditional forms, and his films reach across national boundaries and are still extremely compelling after all these years. There is no dialogue in his films, so technically nothing should prevent their being more well known, except lack of availability. I cannot recommend them highly enough.