Chinese-folk inspired animation aims to charm a broader audience
Published: Mar 20, 2023 03:59 PM
Promotional material of Zao of Family Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

Promotional material of Zao of Family Photo: Courtesy of iQIYI

 Legend has it that Zao Jun (Lit: Kitchen God), one of the key Chinese domestic gods, is ordered to descend from Heaven to Earth and settle with a family, with the task to protect the family, bringing prosperity, good luck and great meals. 

Unlike Santa Claus, the Kitchen God stays with his family for the whole year, only taking a short sabbatical in Heaven around Chinese New Year, before returning back to duty again.

Zao of Family, a new animated series about Zao's mishap and adventure as the magic house nanny at the Zhao Family, kicked off on Chinese streaming platform iQIYI last week. 

Wang Huiyu, the creator of Zao of the Family, told the Global Times that her inspiration to adapt the Kitchen God into a new show came from her previous work with experience in co-prodcutions - "I read one Hollywood script about Santa Claus training a new Chinese Santa to work for Chinese family. And I thought there is got be something better."

It turns out this new Zao might just have it to charm a broader audience - both at home and beyond. After all, who can resist a magic nanny with chubby red cheek and a self-ridicule personality?  At the public screening event on Saturday, many parents are enjoying the show as much as their kids - calling it a perfect mix of solace and warmth of the tradition, with global visual and storytelling fun.

 "I wanted to create something that the whole family can enjoy. Our Zao is both a wise god and a silly child, someone who somehow can always solve any issue for everyone, thus represents the harmony of the family."

As the Chinese animation industry has developed in recent years, more creators have been trying to draw from traditional Chinese culture to produce original works and present China's cultural essence to audiences of different ages through stunning works. During this current trend, tradition and animation go hand in hand, each supporting the other.

In early production, Zao of Family's animation director Chen Liaoyu, stressed the importance of Zao's looks - both in visual design and animation acting, making sure it bears a unique Chinese touch. Chen was also the chief director of recent animation series Yao-Chinese Folktales, another popular show with a new interpretation of yao, the demons or monsters from Chinese folklore. 

According to Wang, season 2 of Zao of Family will come out next Chinese New Year, while books, musicals, live shows as well as a movie are in the plan. "The traditional culture is a treasure house, you just need an open mind when you hunt for treasure."