【Lecture】Made in Shanghai 11
Made in Shanghai - Animation Films from the Golden Era
Made in Shanghai: Animated Films of the Good Old Times
Lecture 11: Forty Years of Sharpening
Guest: Chang Guangxi
Date: 7 January, 14:00-16:00
Location: Interactive Multimedia Room（2F）Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum
‘There is a temperature you left in my arms, you smile and cry in my eyes. There is a story you said in my heart. And you are on the road of going back home in your dreams...’ The little boy Chen Xiang, travels through thousands of mountains and rivers, and has suffered several hardships, in the melody of Xiang Ni De 365 Tian (Thinking of you every day), finally succeed to reunite with his mother. The Lotus Lantern released in 1999 is the first cinema film after Shanghai Animation Film Studio film studio has undergone through the market transformation, brain drain and other difficulties. After 12 years of silence, it took 4 years to polish of the script, recruit talents, and at last proceed to the final creation. This film has fully absorbed and integrated the characteristics of marketization and internationalization while retaining the standard of the SAFS. Therefore, it has finally become a classic of a whole generation.
Chang Guangxi, director of Lotus Lantern, graduated from the Shanghai Film Academy in 1962. At that time, SAFS urgently needed to supplement the animation talents and cooperated with the school with a project of ‘school-studio collaboration’. In just two years, he and his classmates completed the study from the fine art foundation to the basis of animation and action. In the second half of the second year, he directly started his graduation design. Under the leadership of the class teacher and director Zhang Songlin, 30 students have produced a collective creation of the graduation design work, Mei tou nao he bu gao xing. This animation was also directly released to the audience as a formal film. ‘We were very willing to learn, step by step from the basics. In such short and compact time, we mastered the basic animation skills, and laid a solid foundation’ Chang Guangxi recalled.
After admitted to SAFS, Chang Guangxi was assigned to the production team of The Monkey King. As an in-betweener, he dared not be sloppy. ‘To do in-between, you must not only connect the movements of the two animated pictures, but also connect their spirits and characteristics.’ With his excellent work, in less than two years he was promoted to the animator, and became the animation design of Cao yuan ying xiong xiao jie mei. He worked as an animator for more than 20 years. During this period, he worked for Qian Yunda, Yan Dingxian, Wang Shuzhen and many other directors, and therefore accumulated experience in different styles. After becoming a director, his solid foundation in animation and rich work experience gave him great enthusiasm and confidence in his new job. His first director’s work is Butterfly Spring with A Da, then jointly directed Jiazi Saves the Deer with Lin Wenxiao, and independently directed Qi Yi De Meng Gu Ma, a realistic animated film that was challenging due to the production conditions at the time.
Before the birth of Lotus Lantern, SAFS has been quiet for a long time due to the impact of marketization; especially after Monkey King Conquers the Demon, there has been no film plan for 13 years. Therefore SAFS decided to concentrate on shooting a high-quality cinema film to represent the old golden time; and the this responsibility fell on Chang Guangxi’s shoulder. When talking about the choice of the theme, Chang Guangxi recalled ‘when the animated film tries to present the myth, it requires a certain richness of the story content and controllability. The story of Chen Xiang rescuing his mother matches the characteristics of animation, such as the setting of yin and yang, the elements of the immortals, and the family, etc.’ Chang Guangxi spent two years in polishing the script; later, he led his team to return to the 1950-80s old traditions, ‘closing the door and be immersed into the production’. He studied the scripts every day, figured out the characters, discussed the details and rhythm, to reverse the ‘processing film’ thoughts of the animators at that market-oriented time and to regain and recreate the innovative spirit and a pure productive atmosphere.
However, Chang Guangxi is also deeply aware of the differences between the time backgrounds. While strictly controlling the quality of the film, he also strives to catch up with the international standards and adapt to the market environment at that time. ‘We need to learn the advanced concepts from the international animation production, and therefore open a new path for Chinese traditional animation.’ Different from the previous animated film, Lotus Lantern invited a number of popular singers to sing the themed songs. In addition, the dubbing used pre-recording. In the past, most of the films were first produced by animation department, and then sent to the sound studio for dubbing. Nevertheless, Lotus Lantern was first dubbed, then produced; the animation team designed the action based on the tones, expressions, mouth shapes of the dubbing. Although the difficulty of production is increased, the whole team ‘went straight ahead’. The dubbing invited the well-known actors at the time, such as Jiang Wen, Chen Peisi, Xu Fan, etc. They all expressed their strong support for the film and get devoted into the dubbing work. After the film was released, it became a great success. Countless people were fascinated by the beautiful scenery, the moving background music and the wonderful dubbing of the actors. They followed Chen Xiang on his way to rescuing his mother, inspired by his courage and confidence and moved by the final reunion and the happy ending through all those hardships.
Chang Guangxi still remembers the two guidelines on animation creation that the director Te Wei said at SAFS. ‘I won’t imitate others; I won’t repeat myself.’ For a long time, SAFS has adhered to these two principles. Combining Chinese manga and animation, from Wan’s Brothers’ Princess Iron Fan, Where is Mama during the Exploring the National Road, to The Monkey King, Prince Nezha's Triumph Against Dragon King and other well-known classics, several generations of the animators have always pursued the traditional culture and national style. The energy generated by the fusion and collision of Chinese traditional culture and imported cartoons has made Chinese animation in that era glow. They hold the enthusiasm onto the Chinese animation industry, and jointly created the soul of the Chinese animation school.
Chang Guangxi, animation film director, national first-level animator designer, former director of Shanghai Animation Film Studio. In 1962 He graduated from the Department of Animation, Shanghai Film Academy and entered the SAFS, where he participated in the making of more than 30 animation films. His early works and roles include: Mei tou nao he bu gao xing (graduation design), The Monkey King (in-betweener), Cao Yuan Ying Xiong Xiao Jie Mei, Prince Nezha's Triumph Against Dragon King, The Cowboy’s Flute (animator), Snow Kids, The Cold-Proof Coat, Bai Se De Dan (character design). Those films have won numerous domestic and international awards. Since the 1980s, Chang has served as a director. His works include: Butterfly Spring (with A Da), the Best Animation awarded from the Ministry of Culture; Jiazi Saves the Deer (with Lin Wenxiao), the Best Animation, The Golden Calf Award awarded from the Ministry of Culture and The Golden Elephant International Children's Film Festival India; Qi Yi De Meng Gu Ma, the Best Animation awarded from the Ministry of Radio and Television, the Director Award of the first National Film and Television Exhibition; Zi Gu Ying Xiong Chu Shao Nian, China Huabiao Film Award; Lotus Lantern, the Golden Rooster Award for Best Animation, Wu Ge Yi Project Award, China Huabiao Film Award, The Golden Calf Award, the Direct Award of the first China Animation Award, Mar del Plata International Film Festival; Hui Xiang, the Golden Rooster Award. In 2000, he was awarded the title of Shanghai ‘De Yi Shuang Xin’ Artist. After retirement, he became a professor and deputy dean of Jilin Animation Institute, and a visiting professor and postgraduate tutor at universities such as Communication University of China, Beijing Film Academy and Tongji University. He is currently the deputy director of the Animation Art Committee of the Chinese Artists Association, the executive director of the China Animation Society, and a member of Association Internationale du Film D’Animation (ASIFA).