wan laiming

I love the Monkey King. Sun Wukong, Son Goku, every version of him. First time I heard about him was in the gift shop of the “Sons of Heaven” exhibit gift shop where there was a book adaption of the Wan Laiming animated movies from the 1960′s. Some day I would love to see a live Peking Opera version of Journey to the West, but in the meantime I’ll settle for movies and books.

Wan Laiming (萬籟鳴)

Pioneer of Chinese animation

Born: Jan. 18th, 1900
Died: Oct. 7th, 1997

“He was one of the Wan brothers who pioneered the Chinese animation industry, and became China’s first animator. As the director of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, he would raise the standard to International level before other historical events affected the industry.

In 1919, Laiming and his brother Guchan worked in the fine art departments at Shanghai Commercial Press. They were exposed to early technologies like zoetrope with galloping horses that animate on rotation. Other cinema techniques like zoetrope projection principles were being studied.

In the early 1920s on a summer evening, the brothers were squeezed into a small attic. They used a thick book and drew pictures of a cat and mouse. They bent the corners in such a way that it animated the cat catching the mouse. 

In 1924 they were invited to the Great Wall Film Company (長城畫片公司) to try and animate a film under studio terms. Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan were then recognized as China’s animation pioneers when they successfully produced the first animation short Uproar in the Studio running 10 to 12 minutes long in black and white.

Several years after their first feature film, Princess Iron Fan, Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan finally had the opportunity to work on the 1st part of the animation film Havoc in Heaven. By 1964, all 4 Wan brothers were collaborating for the last part of the film. The movie would win International awards officially putting China on the map in terms of a nation capable of producing high quality animation films.

Unfortunately, by 1966 Mao Zedong would start the Cultural Revolution. The animation industry would take a nose dive as many artists were affected in the industry. It was then that China’s golden era of animated film would end.”

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