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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Saturday, May 19, 2007

07:30:51 pm , 352 words, 4139 views     Categories: Animation, Indie

Chinese animation studybook

I was in Beijing for a bit during my trip, and managed to visit a big bookstore. I was curious to see what they might have on animation. There were a few history books about Asian animation that seemed tantalizing, but I didn't get them since I can't read them. My big find was a 4-volume set containing examples of key animation from a selection of the films of Shanghai Animation Studio. Each volume is about 40 pages, so it's only 160 pages in total, but it's still a nice find. There are excerpts of key drawings from various shots in many of the more well-known films - Nezha, Uproar in Heaven, and Cowherd's Flute, to name but a few. I was particularly happy to find examples from the latter, as it (and all of Te Wei's other films) features some of the best movement in any of the studio's films that I've seen. Many of the other examples are from more recent productions that I haven't seen, and, judging by the examples, don't need to. Unfortunately, these occupy a large proportion of the book. I would have preferred to see more from films like Cowherd's Flute and Where's Mama, although these being brush films, I suppose you'd be better off just analyzing the film frame by frame yourself. The main problem with the books is that the line drawings appear to not be original key drawings. It looks like they were traced by someone from the originals, which significantly reduces the books' value IMO. I guess this gets to one of the things I've always felt about the studio. Their cel work has never been their forte. Where the studio really shined, for the most part, was in experimenting with different media other than cel. So I think the books kind of shortchange them in that they don't show the studio where they're really good. Still, despite the flaws, it's a real pleasure to find books like this putting the focus on their own productions, and I'd like to see more material like this from other studios around the world - Soyuzmultfilm, etc.

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9 comments

h_park
h_park [Member]

Ben, it’s good to hear that you found a decent treasure in China. I was bit curious about mainland China’s animated films, but I wasn’t sure how to approach them. It feels like animations from communist regimes have more artistic freedom and experimentation than western counterpart. Do you know any Chinese studio are either working or releasing on any animation of their own?

05/20/07 @ 02:23
Ben [Member]  

It would be interesting to examine more closely in what ways the films might have had more freedom and in what ways less, but that’s too big a subject to comment on in passing… Right now I don’t know much about the current state of Chinese animation. I wish I did. I imagine there must be some interesting indie shorts coming out. I’ll post if I find anything more.

05/21/07 @ 10:10
Tony Mines
Tony Mines [Visitor]  

Baddass. Any chance of a few scans from the Nezha section?

05/23/07 @ 10:56
Ben [Member]  

Sure thing, Tony. Here are a few photos from that section: 1 2 3 4

05/23/07 @ 15:22
Justin Sevakis
Justin Sevakis [Visitor]  

A few years ago I found some rips of what looked to be a DVD boxed set of animation from various studios (mostly Shanghai). It’s fascinating stuff, even if I can’t read any of the titles or understand a word of it. Reminds me a lot of the experimental work being done in Eastern Europe in the 70’s and 80’s, with occasional Max Fletcher influence. (I never did find official DVD’s anywhere.)

Unfortunately after about the mid 90’s or so, the government and industry started lusting after the Japanese anime scene, and has been producing unwatchably poor imitations since. The true art of the Chinese animation scene, and its vivid, experimental style seem, unfortunately, to be relegated to the past.

05/24/07 @ 20:48
h_park
h_park [Member]

Justin, I thought that Chinese government has a state broadcaster at least to sponsor homegrown animation. China is already known for cheap labor, but abandon its artistic heritage in favor of economy? That’s just too sad.

05/26/07 @ 02:08
Niffiwan
Niffiwan [Visitor]  

Ben, just on the subject of artistic freedom, I’ve actually thought about this in the past. Here are some things I wrote about that (copy+pasted from another place):

“Soyuzmultfilm had a certain formula - a certain amount of time was given for so many minutes of animation. I think this length of time was more generous than for most Western cartoons, and was indicative of the different priorities - both sides tried to cut their costs (they both had only a certain amount of money to work with) and make films that people would want to watch, but in the USSR the emphasis was on the second (there was no point in making a film if people wouldn’t watch it) while in the west the emphasis was on the first (there was no point in making a film if it was going to lose money)”

More over here:
http://niffiwan.livejournal.com/1911.html

05/28/07 @ 08:58
Nicke
Nicke [Visitor]  

Could you please post the ISBN for the books? I’m trying to find them online!

08/01/07 @ 15:12
Ben [Member]  

Volume 1: ISBN 7-121-00040-7
Volume 2: ISBN 7-121-00041-5
Volume 3: ISBN 7-121-00042-3
Volume 4: ISBN 7-121-00043-1

I found them listed at www.fecit.cn here.

08/22/07 @ 13:49