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From the 1950s to the 1980s, a large number of outstanding animations produced by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio gained high international reputation on the basis of their unique Chinese style and oriental aesthetics, and are usually referred to as ‘classical Chinese animation’. Although many scholars highly appreciate its national and traditional style, and believe that it was the most important factor that contributed to the success, I would argue that this style also potentially limited the independence and originality of Chinese animation. In this essay, I will rethink classical Chinese animation through an analysis of the intimate relationship between Chinese animation and Chinese literacy classics, classical painting and traditional opera, with the aim to demonstrate that, in spite of its international reputation, classical Chinese animation also was negatively influenced by those prestigious art forms. Faithfully appropriating classical literature limits the ability of Chinese animation to freely explore the modern themes and narratives, and prioritizing the techniques and conventions of traditional Chinese painting and opera tied Chinese animation to the original masterpieces and potentially harmed its inherently cinematic nature. All of these factors would overshadow the destiny of classical Chinese animation and precipitated its foreseeable decline after the 1980s.
- Chinese animation
- Shanghai Animation studio
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