Princess Iron Fan: A Chinese Animation Classic from 1941

Posted by Michael Pinto on Dec 29, 2009 in Animation |

Not so long ago a friend was asking me why animation in China was never as strong as Japan: A simple answer would be that because of Mao’s Communism from 1949 until 1976 that it was very hard for creative artists to express themselves in China, and especially even more so during the cultural revolution in the 60s. However it should be noted that there is a growing industry there today, in fact most of the hard work done to create Japanese anime is outsourced to China.

But once upon a time there was a fledgling animation industry in China before Mao. And a film that best captures this is Princess Iron Fan which made during World War II in 1941. Directed by the Wan brothers this amazing film was based on the popular Chinese folk tale Journey to the West and features a style that incorporates both a Disney and uniquely Chinese look.

While the quality of this film may seem crude by modern standards you have to keep in mind that it was made during the Japanese occupation of China — i.e. the folks drawing this were doing it while a war was being fought on their soil. Over two hundred artists spent three years making this epic film which incorporates cutting edge techniques of the day like rotoscoping.

What makes this film such a landmark is that it was the first feature length animated film to made in Asia (yes China beat Japan for that title). In fact the film was exported to Japan where it inspired the Japanese to make the 1945 film Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors and inspired a young teenaged Tezuka Osamu to become a comic book artist.

To fit this video on YouTube I had to sadly cut it up into ten minute segments, but to view the entire thing go to

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