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, February 12, 2005

02:35:06 am , 423 words, 3355 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.

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11 comments

Leo
Leo [Visitor]

And I couldn’t agree with you more! These are magnificent pieces of animation that everyone even remotely interested in the art should at least see them once in their lifetime! They’re beautiful and so poetic that they almost feel effortless.

After all that talk about chinese animation that I seem to have generated awhile back, I went and ordered this set here from ebay:

link

The service was very efficient so if anyone’s thinking of buying it, it comes highly recommended.

The second disc is very worthwhile since it includes two vintage documentaries about this type of watercolour animation.

All in all, I’m just happy to share my love of these shorts with you, Ben and with anyone who likes them as much as I do.

02/13/05 @ 02:28
Tian
Tian [Visitor]

Have you watched these chinese animation?
Uproar in heaven “大闹天宫"(1964 Movie) http://yule.sohu.com/s2004/danaotiangong.shtml
http://www.southcn.com/cartoon/rg/200407161332.htm
http://www.ani-sh.com/jdhg/60/dntg/dntg1.html (Offical Website)

Nezha Conquers the Dragen King “哪吒闹海"(1979 Movie) http://www.ani-sh.com/jdhg/70/nz/nz1e.htm

“葫芦兄弟"(TV series)

They are as magnificent as those you memtioned.
I hope u like them.

02/15/05 @ 04:48
Leo
Leo [Visitor]

Yes, I am aware of those and actually have them on DVD. Indeed they are magnificent pieces of work and highly recommended for anyone with a keen eye for animation.

It’s a shame that more of this is hard to find nowadays. Golden age, alright!

02/15/05 @ 09:03
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

I have actually seen a bit of The Gourd Brothers 葫芦兄弟 and was quite impressed. It’s a very fast-paced, highly imaginative fantasy done with paper cut-out animation. There are 13 10-minute episodes. It’s a comparatively recent item from 1986-7, and apparently one of the better items made in this period. In the 1980s Chinese animation apparently underwent great changes due to animator brain drain and production systems changing to mimic the western style. A nice article I ran across:

http://www.qingyun.com/cgi-bin/ut/topic_print.cgi?id=60678

He even talks about Mochinaga Tadahito!

I sort of had a question… I was already a big fan of Uproar in Heaven 大闹天宫, but I noticed there appear to be several other films done in exactly the same style, dating from years later. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? Who made these? Is it the same team that made the original? How many are there? I’m very curious to know the names/dates/details for the series.

02/15/05 @ 09:55
KLINSMANN LOU
KLINSMANN LOU [Visitor]

我喜欢中国过去的老动画片。象《渔童》http://www.tjwsg.com/gzwh/yt.html
还有猴子捞月等。。制作的 非常好。有特色又值得回味。

03/16/05 @ 23:21
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Translation from someone who doesn’t speak Chinese:

I also enjoy old Chinese animation, for example The Fisher Boy and Monkeys Fish the Moon. Not only are these films incredibly well made, but they’re highly original and only get better on repeated viewings.

03/17/05 @ 10:12
KLINSMANN LOU
KLINSMANN LOU [Visitor]

中国现在动画产业正蓬勃发展。特别热。而且尤其偏好3D立体效果的动画。。

我们学校的研究生考试中也属动画系最难考。报名的人特别多 。

我觉得在你这留言特别有意思。一条留言,后还配有一条翻译。乐趣无言。你也有这份乐趣吗?

03/25/05 @ 00:29
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Sorry, you’ve gone way beyond my meager Chinese comprehension skills. Too bad, because I’d be very interested to hear about what’s going on in Chinese animation today…

03/26/05 @ 09:58
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

I’ll help you translate what I can.

“China is curently making rapid expansion in the animation industry. Especially active. And furthermore ones with some pretty good 3D effects.

The students in our school also rate the animation exams as the most difficult. There was an especially large amount of people who signed up.

I find commenting here particularly meaningful. There’s even a translation after each comment. That’s realy nice beyond words. Do you find this enjoyable?”

真的不好意思,但是我们都不是华侨,华语也真的不太流利。。。可以的话,用英文应该会比较好哦。还有,我们都很想听中国动画的现场是怎样的。请多教。

03/28/05 @ 02:30
Random person
Random person [Visitor]

(What I just said was, “Really sorry, but we aren’t Chinese and aren’t particularly good at the language… If it’s possible, it would be easier if you could use English. Also, we would be very interested in hearing more about China’s animation scene. Please do tell.” …)

03/28/05 @ 02:32
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks so much! :D

03/28/05 @ 09:40