Made in Shanghai: Animated Films of the Good Old Times 12
Made in Shanghai - Animation Films from the Golden Era
Who is Te Wei? Why do we always call him ‘lao baba (old man)’?
How did he change from a cartoonist to one of the most important figures in the history of Chinese animation?
As the first director of Shanghai Animated Film Studio, how did he lead the team to create two brilliant periods of Chinese animation?
His life has been bumpy but optimistic, but what kind of wish did he make in his old age?
In November 1947, the Northeast Film Studio filmed the first puppet film Emperor’s Dream, and in the following year, successfully produce the first animated film Go After an Easy Prey, which unveiled the prelude of the new Chinese art film. Although he used to paint the comics, after he arrived in Changchun, he became interest in the animation. At that time, Fang Ming (Tadahito Mochinaga), the head of the cartoon group in the studio, taught everyone to learn animation. In the autumn of 1949, the first animated film group of People’s Republic of China was established in Dongying (now Changchun Film Studio). Te Wei was the leader of the group. Although his major was not animation, he studied very hard and he did have talents. He quickly became the core figure. .
In 1950, Te Wei led a 22-member animated film group to move to Shanghai. After this south heading, they really felt that there was a good cultural atmosphere in all aspects in Shanghai, and the talents are relatively grouped. There were also many animations to learn and observe, which inspired them a lot. In April 1957, the SAFS announced its official establishment, and the Chinese animated film began a new chapter.
SAFS led by Tewei gradually evolved from the original 22 people to the maximum size of 500 people, and gathered the most outstanding talents in the Chinese animation industry. This is closely related to his cultivation and talent management policy. In this process, he called on the Chinese animation pioneer Wan’s Brothers to return from overseas, invited a lot of well-known artists and professionals including the animation wizard Qian Jiajun, puppet artist Yu Zheguang, watercolor painter Lei Yu, writer Ma Guoliang, Bao Lei, and film artist Zhang Chaoqun, and employed many young art talents just graduated from universities and secondary schools. In 1959, at that time, the Shanghai Film Bureau decided to open the Shanghai Film and Television Academy. Te Wei proposed to establish an animation department. He believed that the formal school training should be a long-term plan. And within this plan, every year, the new and energetic force from the school can enrich SAFS. Sadly, the school was later closed. In the 1960s, SAFS has formed an animation talent team with reasonable age structure and professional skills. Since then, Chinese animation has begun to flourish in the history of world animation.
‘What if you guys make Qi Baishi’s alive!’
In January 1960, the encouragement from Chen Yi, the vice premier of the State Council, to the staff of SAFS, has triggered a series of innovative reforms in the production of Chinese animated films from paintings, photography to stunts. In February of the same year, SAFS set up an experimental group where A Da was in charge of characters and background design, Lv Jin was responsible for the in-betweens, and Duan Xiaoxuan was responsible for photography and printing technology. After nearly three months, the experiment of ‘Ink Animation Parts’ was successful. It breaks through the animations can be only produced by filling the body structure with single lines, creating a vivid texture of the ink body, so that the ink characteristics can still keep and achieve a balanced and unified artistic expression after ‘flowing’. After the hard work and constant practice, in July of the following year, the birth of China’s first ink animation Where is Mama amazed the whole world. Te Wei, as the director of SAFS, is also the artistic director of this film; he also devoted his wisdom and hard work. Afterwards, SAFS continued to film three other ink animations, The Cowboy’s Flute, The Deer’s Bell, and Feeling from Mountain and Water, two of which were directed by Te Wei.
After shifting from comics to animation, Te Wei devoted himself to the animated film industry and created a new world for new Chinese animation. In 1956, Te Wei put forward the slogan of Exploring the Road of National Style, and showed it directly into his Jiao’ao De Jiangjun, which transformed the general’s styling into facial makeup and his action into the stage elements, both from the Peking Opera. For this film, Te Wei led the creators to King Yu's Mausoleum Temple, Shaoxing, to experience the old-time culture; he also invited the famous composer Chen Gexin to compose for the film. Chen Gexin put the fragments of the classic Chinese pipa piece Ambush from All Sides into the picture, expressing the embarrassment and remorse of the general when facing enemies from all sides It is so refreshing that contributed to this film becoming the first national piece of Chinese national-style animations. From Jiao’ao De Jiangjun to Monkey King Conquers the Demon, Te Wei always persists his nationalism.
In the 1980s, a script was written by the famous animation director Wang Shuzhen. After reviewing it, Te Wei liked it very much. He thought that he could make it into an ink animation. Therefore it became a later directing cooperation with Yan Shanchun and Ma Kexuan. And they created together the peak of ink animation Feeling from Mountain and Water. During the production, Zhuo Hejun was responsible for painting landscapes, and Wu Shanming was responsible for designing characters. They often participated into the discussion with the directors and staff from the SAFS to better present the depth of the landscape picture. Each of them has drawn nearly a hundred manuscripts, and 150 of them were selected for reference to the directors, the animators, and the in-betweeners. At the scene of the photography, ‘painting on site, shooting directly’ is used to make the picture more vivid.
This 19-minute film has won numerous awards at home and abroad. It is also the last film of Te Wei. Having unloaded the burden of executive leadership, he spent more time with the film crew. From the film style to a specific small picture, they scrutinized very carefully. His family recalled that Te Wei was a low-key person and acted very resolutely. When they asked him whether Feeling from Mountain and Water can win awards like The Cowboy’s Flute, he did not answer directly. He just said: ‘you can believe in me. Once I started to do something, I must do it well.’ He was not proud of his numerous honors. More often, he would rather let his thoughts immersed in the resounding guqin: it is his gratefulness to the teacher, a nostalgia to the past, and his big profile and calm for leaving.
Gong Jianying, national second-level literacy editor, former director of curation department of Shanghai Animation Film Studio. She has taken part in the series Xiao tu tao tao, the puppet Xiao e de hong fang zi and managed the curation of series A Young Monk, Sui Tang Ying Xiong Zhuan, The story of Chinese traditional virtues, Big Ear Tutu, Chao ji qiu mi, Shui Hu Ying Xiong Xiu, and the film of Yong Shi. She has served as editor and deputy chief editor of Sun Wu Kong illustration articles, the deputy chief editor of Cartoon King magazine, and the general manager of Shanghai Cartoon Culture Developing, Ltd. Co.
She is now professor and leader of the BA animation programme in Digital Media College of Shanghai Institute of Visual Art, vice president of the China Animation Society, the expert of Ministry of Culture supporting the animation industry Expert Committee a member of Association Internationale du Film D' Animation (ASIFA). She is the lecturer for Animation Script, Chinese and Western Animation Masters, Animation Planning and Marketing, and Animation Short Film Creation.