New Year, Old Gift


image courtesy of ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

As much as I’d like to give you red envelopes stuffed with cash (for the whippersnappers, of course–red envelopes are traditionally given to those younger than yourself), I’m a little broke right now.

Instead, for your Lunar New Year gift, I will give you the first Chinese feature-length animated film, Princess Iron Fan (Tie Shan Gong Zhu).

This 1941 film by the pioneering Wan brothers came out of the Xinhua Film Company, a feat in itself, as Shanghai was under Japanese occupation at the time. Xinhua may have been one of the last of the Shanghai studios to hold out against occupying force’s business interests, but was eventually merged with Japanese-controlled studios.

The details of the film are charmingly Fleischer-esque, and for those familiar with Chinese epics you’ll know that film is based on an episode from Journey to the West. When the film was screened in Japan, a young Tezuka saw it and it influenced him greatly.

Here’s a preview on youtube–but you can watch the film in its entirety at the Internet Archive.

We hope to see you all for this Sunday’s Lunar New Year Celebration!

5 Responses to “New Year, Old Gift”

  1. Petlvy Smot  on February 4th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Oh,really nice post,really a good idea,thx

  2. Nancy  on February 5th, 2010 at 12:29 am

    This is quite a gift – utterly charming. Its survival is also a miracle – thank you for sharing it with us. Enjoying the adventures of Princess Iron Fan is a great lead in to the Year of the Tiger. I think that this is also a metal year as well so the iron imagery is doubly relevant.

  3. duriandave  on February 6th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Happy Lunar New Year to one and all!

    Thanks for the post about the Wan Brothers. Princess Iron Fan is actually available on DVD with English subtitles.

    I just learned this morning that Ti Wei, pioneering animator and first president of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, passed away at the age of 95.

    One of his innovations was the use of Chinese brush painting in animation. You can see an example of this in his short, “The Cowherd’s Flute” (1963), which is viewable on YouTube in two parts. Beautiful stuff!

  4. nico  on February 7th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    What crazy timing! And that looks like a better version of PIF than the one I’d seen years ago, which was so obviously an nth generation copy.
    I’ve been trying to get hold of some really early animation out of Shanghai, but it seems that much was lost in WWII firebombings.

    Speaking of cartoons, I’m especially sad to be missing this:

    Is it time to write that history of world animation yet?

  5. duriandave  on February 10th, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Thanks for the link, Nico! That’s a magical film. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking at the related videos of real life hedgehogs. And it’s true, they do float on their backs. ;)

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