Affirmation of creative interest in rendering the figure in motion date way back to the still drawings of palaeolithic cave paintings. More examples can be found in such art of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Because they had not yet acquired the means to bring these artistic depictions to real movement, they represented them in still images.
However, the first invention to bring these figurative drawings to life with motion was the zoetrope. the earliest zoetrope was created in China by inventor Ting Huan. the zoetrope is a spinning cylinder with still images on the inner wall and open slits around the circumference, that when looked through, show the images inside which appear to be moving if spun at the right speed. The zoetrope was one of the first significant developments in animation history.
However, since the invention of the zoetrope which spun off the fascination with animated film, China’s influence in the industry has rapidly dropped. Textiles, jewellery and other areas of chinese design have become very successful worldwide due to the synthetic traditional cultural style. However, animation seems to be the one subject where the chinese style has failed to innovate foreign tastes.
In the year 2000, the government brought into play a policy to further establish the animation industry. By 2010, the minutes of animation produced in China had increased from 4000 in 2003, to 220,000. Although China is showing a clear development in the animation industry, it does not match up to the animation boom occurring world wide. China has a long way to go before it becomes an influential role model in animation.
Another reason for China’s seemingly unpopular animation industry is due to lack of support from the Chinese government. restraint on animation content for example could be due to strict government censorship. in order to promote the chinese animation industry, the state administration of radio, film and television banned any foreign cartoons from being broadcast between 5 and 8 p.m in 2006. The government spends lots of money on animation festivals which attract a great deal of attention but fail to successfully promote the animation film industry. This seems rather pointless therefore, when you consider the fact that the money put into these extravagant events, could be spent on centres and materials to improve animation quality.
images taken from the China Internation Cartoon and Animation festival
Another reason for the lack of recognition in the Chinese animation industry is perhaps the fact that their neighbouring country Japan is one of the most successful creators of animation in the world. according to John Lent, author of Animation in Asia and the Pacific, one of China’s weak attributes in animation is the story telling. any good story’s they have are summarily turned into big blockbuster motion pictures.
Li Wuwei, elected vice chairman of the 11th national committee of Chinese people’s political consultative conference explains the lack of interest in Chinese animation. ”we are a big country with a rich culture, but not yet a strong cultural influence. one important reason for this is the lack of innovation on culture. Therefore, our cultural industry is weak in its radiation power and attraction.”
One of the cardinal problems with Chinese animation is the industries ambiguous direction of development. Many animation producers have a very distinct lack of knowledge on chinese culture and in order to attract a foreign audience, they unthinkingly abide by rules and models of other animations about the globe. In doing so, they lose that certain sentimental aspect and become less valuable in the animation world. Their productions hold no special influential quality for foreign viewers and alienate any cultural value to those from China.
On the other hand there are certain animators in china who trap themselves within tradition cliche’s, ignoring the integration of other cultures. mainly the story lines are too embedded in Chinese culture to make them playable to audiences abroad. There is a balance to be made before Chinese animation will become popular worldwide.
Princess Iron Fan (1941) China’s first animated feature film