Chinese animation film sector needs open mind

By Yan Yunming Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/9 18:03:40

Photo: IC

I'm a huge animation fan. Compared with most live action movies, animation can always create a fantastic world with unfettered imagination. I'm obsessed with the feeling of immersing myself in enchanting adventures.

Since late July, a Chinese animated film Ne Zha, telling the tale of this Chinese mythical figure, has become a big surprise hit at the Chinese box office, earning 2.94 billion yuan ($420 million) and dominating it for 12 consecutive days by Wednesday. 

Not only that, the movie has gained overwhelming praise from the public. It earned a score of 8.6/10 on an influential Chinese film discussion portal (better than 89 percent animation films and 97 percent comedies). And the mythological character has suddenly become an online celebrity. Many people, including several real movie stars of China, shared photos and videos on social media platforms in which they dressed like Ne Zha. 

In fact, the film failed to catch my eyes at the outset. In Chinese methodology, Ne Zha usually appears as a brave and likeable child, even regarded by some as a deity of protection. In the movie, however, he is depicted as a mischievous boy with smoky eyes and shark teeth. While watching the trailer, I was thinking that the figure and the plot would certainly not be my cup of tea.

But unable to resist the acclaim from almost everybody, I finally spent two hours in cinema and found that I was wrong. 

The pictures are amazing. Most importantly, the movie injects modern values and concerns into traditional story, making it easier to be accepted. 

When I was at primary school in 2003, an animated series The Legend of Ne Zha was extremely popular. Ne Zha was my beloved character at that time. But I recalled and found, sadly, during the teenage years that Disney princesses, Pikachu and Conan, none of which were created by Chinese producers, became my favorite animated figures. 

I believe just as what I experienced, the youthful years of many people my age were dominated by foreign animated films and series. Even if one has never watched Disney productions and Japanese anime, he or she cannot be immune to their effects, because the princesses, Marvel heroes, Pokémon and many other figures have already become culture symbols, leaving imprints on our daily lives. 

Although the Chinese animation industry produced several excellent works in the early days, it has stayed rather quiet in recent years, especially producing few movies for teenagers and adults. It is somewhat distressing to me that Chinese animated heroes and heroines were absent from my youth. 

But gratifyingly, the quality and popularity of Ne Zha has brought hope for the rise of Chinese animations, believed by many animation fans. Thanks to this movie, an increasing number of audiences have seen the efforts of Chinese animation makers and have been increasingly confident about the industry's future, where Chinese animated movies can have a prominent place in our memories. Chinese productions one day can be exported to other countries and win favors.

It is a delightful prospect but we should also remain sober. When I browsed film discussion portals, I noticed that some movie fans have hijacked other audiences with their patriotic sentiment, disallowing any negative views. The film does have drawbacks, but some netizens who posted objective discussions were accused by certain fans of "fawning on foreign countries" and "being unpatriotic." 

Chinese animated movies are truly developing, but both producers and audiences should realize that only being open-minded and taking advice can help the industry go further. We should never be dizzy with success and be overwhelmed by distorted patriotism.

I believe with passion, efforts and modesty, Chinese animation will eventually come out with flying colors.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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