Chinese animation 100
Published: Jul 11, 2022 06:51 PM
A scene from Havoc in Heaven Photo: Courtesy of Douban

A scene from Havoc in Heaven Photo: Courtesy of Douban

Birth of 'Havoc in Heaven': An epoch-making movie in Chinese animation history

China's first feature-length animated film in color was 1964's Havoc in Heaven. The film is an unforgettable film in Chinese animation history for its high production quality and great international reputation.

Also known as Uproar in Heaven, Havoc in Heaven is one of the most famous adaptations of the classic Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en. The film received numerous awards, earning both domestic and international recognition.

The movie depicts the well-known chapter in which the Monkey King Sun Wukong's playful personality is prominently displayed, making him one of the most recognizable heroes among Chinese children and a huge influence on the generations that followed.

"The production was incredibly difficult compared to what we have now. Every shot was hand drawn by us," recalled Yan Dingxian to Time Weekly in 2012. Wan was one of the main creators who participated in the production more than 50 years ago.

The staff would place mirrors on the table in front of them, to draw characters by observing their own expressions.

In 1954, the film's director Wan Laiming joined the Shanghai Film Studio. Prior to that he was the owner of a small photo studio in Hong Kong.

In the days following Wan's start at the Shanghai Film Studio, his idea for producing Havoc in Heaven received strong support. 

This support paid off as the movie has been distributed to at least 44 countries and regions such as in the UK. 

It has also been screened at major international film festivals in 14 countries including Spain, Mexico, the US, the UK, India, Italy, Greece and France.

"I remember the day we screened the film, the room was crowded and everyone was so focused and just stared at the screen. The most restless person in the room was me. Sitting in the front row of the screening room, I couldn't help but have mixed emotions. Sun Wukong was laughing on screen, but I was crying in the theater," Wan Laiming recalled in his memoirs.

Global Times