Innovative animation film empowers century-old Chinese classics
Published: Jan 07, 2023 08:47 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Yao-Chinese Folktales

Photo: Courtesy of Yao-Chinese Folktales

Yao-Chinese Folktales animation series became a hit in the first week of 2023 as viewership surpassed 10 million within three days following its debut on January 1 on Chinese streaming platform Bilibili, which some experts and movie critics viewed as classic reborn and said that the excellent literary works based on the essence of Chinese culture can always attract both the audience and the market.

Co-presented by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio and Shanghai Kuanyu Digital Technology, comprised of eight stories ranging from 15 to 25 minutes, Yao-Chinese Folktales gives new interpretations of "yao," a demon or monster in Chinese culture.

All the characters are inspired by classic Chinese literature works which are rooted in the hearts and memories of the Chinese people. Yet the themes vary, ranging from childhood terror memory, rural changes to relationship between human being and animals, even reaching the outer space.

Based on the famous novel Journey to the West, the first released 22-minute Nobody tells the five-day countdown story of how a low-ranking pig demon obeyed his wolf king and bear supervisor's orders to make preparations for the killing of a monk and his disciples from Tang dynasty, who were the main characters in the original novel.

The pig demon lost his close friend the crow demon who was creative in executing the bear's command by sacrificing his own feathers to manufacture better-quality arrows, which the boss didn't appreciate and regarded the move as challenging authority. The crow accidentally trespassed into a highly confidential area, which cost him his life. Efforts by the pig and the crow were ignored and their dignity was repeatedly trampled when they were working with the bosses. In the end, the pig realized that the Monk Tang represented greatness and justice while the demons stood on the opposite side. He chose to stand on the right side.

Chinese netizens gave overwhelming praise to Nobody and eagerly waited for the update of the series, claiming that the innovative creation empowers traditional Chinese classic works, giving them new vitality.

Many said the content, storytelling, soundtrack and subtitles were all done very well. The creative angle gave the classic work a new life and made their childhood memory sweeter. "I won't let my friends miss this excellent work," one 33-year-old Shanghai resident told the Global Times.

"It is the mission for Chinese cultural enterprises to use unique Chinese stories to more vividly and profoundly explain issues of common concern to mankind, and to focus on building Chinese cultural soft power with strong appeal and influence," Li Zao, the chief producer of the series, told the Global Times.

Many commented that it's also a career drama, and the life of the pig is just the portrayal of the low-ranking office workers who are struggling to make a living but never gave up pursuit of the good, the true and the beautiful.

The 17-minute Goose Mountain was also released on January 1, but conditionally to Bilibili members, before the general public will be granted free access on January 8. The other six pieces She Wolf, Null Island, Fool and God, Old Man Yang, Ship down the Well and Fly Me to the Earth are scheduled to be released as of February 19, spanning the traditional Spring Festival.

Diverse elements of Chinese culture and arts, including paper-cutting, shadow play and Peking Opera are applied in the series.

As a tribute to the 100th anniversary (2022) of the birth of Chinese animation, the series not only inherits the "rhythm" and "soul" of many classic masterpieces such as The Monkey King (Havoc in Heaven), The Book of Heaven, Black Cat Sheriff and other classic works presented by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, but also shows the innovation and creation of the young generation directors and producers of contemporary Chinese animation film, Chen Liaoyu, the chief director of the series told media.

"As Chinese animation films enter a new century, the series is not only a tribute, but also inherits the animation studio's creative concept of 'not imitate others, not repeat ourselves.' We will strive to realize the creative transformation and innovative development of traditional culture, and highlight the national integrity and oriental charm in China's 5,000-year history and culture," Su Da, president of Shanghai Animation Film Studio, also the produce of the series, told the Global Times.