The animation industry is always in crisis in China. Every so often an article appears bemoaning the state of Chinese animation (this one also looks like a promotion for a new department– another important factor in Chinese animation, educational institutions promoting media programs meant to feed the domestic animation industry). The message is generally the same. Once upon a time there was a Golden Age, now things are more dispersed, audiences in China are critical of domestic animation, and the movie isn’t a blockbuster like a film by Disney or Studio Ghibli.
The Golden Age is often represented by Havoc in Heaven aka Uproar in Heaven: “[w]ith its stunning visuals and beautiful music inspired by Peking Opera, [the film] received numerous awards, as well as widespread domestic and international recognition.”
Sure. Once the country opened up and sent the film abroad in the late 1970s and viewers could watch the film abroad and in China, everyone loved Uproar, until they kept playing it on TV over and over and even the kids got sick of it. Uproar was produced in two parts in 1961 & 1964 (Olga Bobrowska* does an excellent reading of the films as such). The first part was well received, the second part not so much. Might have had something to do with the Red Guards appropriating the public domain Monkey King for their own revolutionary activities.
Can animators in China learn anything from Uproar, DIsney, and Studio Ghibli? Will the most recent animation studio/institution create that ever illusive recipe to become the next global blockbuster?
It’s the story, stupid.
Sean Macdonald <email@example.com>
*See Olga Bobrowska, “Maoist Remoulding of the Legend of Monkey King, or Analyzing Ideological Implications of Wan Laiming’s Havoc in Heaven,” in Twisted Dreams of History, V4 Perspective on Propaganda, Ideology, and Animation, Kraków: Wydawnictwa AGH (AGH University of Science and Technology Press, 2019): 83-104.