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Early History of Chinese Animation (Donghua)

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

The Wan Brothers

The Wan brothers were born at the turn of the century in Nanjing, China. During their early years they put on puppet shows and experimented with art within the family’s home. Ultimately, they taught themselves how to animate;

The Wan Brothers; Wan Lai-Ming, Wan Gu-Chan and Wan Chao-Chen

though, Chao-Chen did travel to America in the 1940s to study it academically. The twins Lai-Ming and Gu-Chan stuck together with the longest career-wise; eventually, they became the pioneers of Chinese animation. All the brothers reunited professionally for the final film in their Uproar in Heaven series. Then after, beginning in 1965, the Cultural Revolution in China halted all animation for almost ten years. The Wan brothers, especially Lai-Ming, were recognized for their efforts in animation and art by the Chinese government in the 1980s.

Princess Iron Fan (1941)

Adapted from the popular Chinese folk tale Journey to the West, and produced by the Wan brothers in the midst of World War II, Princess Iron Fan is the first feature length animated film produced in China. The film was a commercial success the first for Asia.

Why Is the Crow Black-Coated is the first Chinese animation in color produced at the Shanghai Animation Film Studio by Brothers Wan Laiming and Wan Guchan.


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