(CCTV, May 29, 2013) For many people, cartoons embody their childhood memories. Characters like the Monkey King and the Black Cat Sherrif accompanied many of us through our formative years. But how did these characters come into being and how were they presented on screen?
This is where all the familiar characters were born. Started in the 1960s, the Shanghai Animation Film Studio was a leading pioneer in China’s animation industry.
Although many of the workshops have now been replaced with computers, there remains a museum here dedicated to the history of China’s old-school animation.
Qian Jianping, director of Shanghai Animation Film Studio, said, “When making “The Monkey King”, we went to the Forbidden City to design the Heavenly Palace for the film. So you can see architectural styles like the carved pillars in the film.
For me, to make a really great animation, you need to find inspiration in life. There are also traces of Chinese culture and customs in the film, like facial paintings in Peking opera, New Year’s paintings and Door God decorations.”
Back in the 1970s making an animation required skilled and meticulous handiwork.
The artists would first sketch the figures and then draw the background separately on white paper. These images were then copied to tracing paper and colored in. By overlapping the sheets of tracing paper, a complete image was created.
However the famous “Calabash Brothers” were cut-out, rather than painted. Their heads and body parts were all cut from pieces of cardboard and then pinned together, thus creating the three dimensional image as seen on TV.
Another classic Chinese cartoon, “Black Cat Sherrif”, won over audiences with its interesting storylines. And the Sherrif has become one of the most memorable characters in Chinese animation history.
Qian Jianping said, “First the director had a few sketches of the Sherrif. They were all reviewed by the team and we narrowed them down to five or six including the one with a hat– not like the final image– but with a helmet. And then we had some consultations with children and the image of the Sherrif was finally selected.”
Aside from the images, the sound effects to accompany them are also interesting. The sound of horses racing, wind blowing, or thunder and rain are all made from these simple tools.
The final stage in animation production happens here, on an animation stand. The camera is fixed and by moving the stand, a close or a long shot is created.
Although these old-school animations may not seem as up-to-date as current digital cartoons, the laughter and the tears they brought to us as children will never be lost.