24 10 2009

these screencaps are from a chinese animation masterpiece – MUDI, or – ‘the boy with the bamboo flute’. animated in 1963 by TE WEI and QIAN JAJUN, produced by studio shanghai. when I was teaching in china two years ago I had a chance to meet several of the animators of studio shanghai’s past. most of them are now teaching animation to the new generation of artists. the animation technique of the above film is very interesting. when I was visiting studio shanghai I saw a few originals. some of the animation was done in the traditional chinese watercolor technique on special watercolor paper. the backgrounds were painted with cel paint and ink on cels and then photographed on top of the animation. the other way around. beautiful watercolors!


© studio shanghai




7 responses

24 10 2009
David Wilson

These screen grabs are gorgeous, any clues on how to see the actual film?

from hans –
I got a shanghai studio compilation DVD in taiwan

9 12 2013

Hans, where did you get the DVD? This looks absolutely wonderful, and I have never heard of this ‘Studio Shanghai’ before.

29 10 2009

Might you explain in a little more detail the process of painting the BG on cel and putting it on top of the water colors? I am trying to imagine this process, but it isn’t making sense to me…

I love this blog! So much love for animation, and so many treasures shared.

from hans –
it’s pretty simple, you paint the BG on cel with transparent color, like feltpen. and in case there is not too much movement of your characters behind, you leave the area of their movement blank. in case of the chinese short it was easy, because the watercolor-animated waterbuffalo was very dark. so a transparent color on top would never show. it you are not doing a realistic animated film it doesn’t really matter, if the BG-information covers once in a while parts of the animation. but avoid opaque colors. it’s a great technique, cost-efficient and fast, I used it myself a lot for tv-animation. and when you look at the HUBLEY-masterpieces, he used it all the time.

29 10 2009

Fascinating and simple. I just looked at these videos again and, yes, there it is. Thank you!

2 11 2009
Wei Gan

some other animations recommended from studio shanghai based on this technique along with this one if you’ve got a chance to see the dvd collection, they are, lu ling (the deer bell), the images are actually shown in this post, check the bottom of the second image, it shows a girl playing with a deer; shan shui qing (the emotion of hills and rivers, this is just my rough translation, they dont have a english name, yet) this is my favorite, it gets much deeper only if you can grab the traditional zen sprite out of it; xiao ke dou zhao ma ma (tadpoles finding mum), i remember this is the first chinese watercolor animation ever made (by the way, they’re called traditional watercolor animation in China), the character designs are based on a watercolor master’s series of paintings, in my opinion, this is also the most well implemented watercolor animation.

if you can bear with me a bit more, it’s also sad to see that contemporary chinese animatiors seem to completely abandon this creativity and passion, all they embrace today are shallow anime styled animations borrowed from japan, i’m not against anime or whatsoever, it’s just plain sad to see no one ever bother to dig our own very sprite of integration of traditional art style and animation and any other new media, we did it so well decades before, those animations not only show the fresh style but also the honesty of delivering something really good and become the constant inspiration to the younger generations , that’s the way animation should be heading instead of mimicking and brainless copying, the animation should reflect the certain culture and spirit just like films or literature, otherwise it’s just spiritless pure commercial crap.

end of venting, anyway, hope you enjoy the watercolor animation.

from hans –
dear wei gan, you are so right. it’s an illness that spreads far beyond china. I have all the other films you are talking about. they are jewels as well. the problem today with chinese animation seems to be that production houses there are trying to conquer the world animation market with dumping prices, not with quality. in a way I understand the need to get as much work as possible, since only in one university I went for lectures there were 6.000 animation students. it should be up to the audience to revolt and boycott TV-stations who offer the worst in animation. but I am afraid it is the same as in the fast food market, the masses eat everything.

27 11 2009
Steve Brown

I completely agree about the problem in contemporary Chinese animation. Many animators that I spoke with in China expressed an interest in reestablishing a culturally specific content in Chinese animation, but at the same time looking forward, rather than backward to traditional arts. Actually, there are so many powerful contemporary painters in China whose work is identifiably Chinese and yet thoroughly modern. To me, they represent a tremendous resource as production designers for the Chinese animation industry, if only someone had the vision to make use of them.

There is an interesting documentary about Te Wei where he explains his technique in the film “Where’s Mama?”. He says that he simulated the effect of seeping ink on rice paper wit cell animation in this way. Each character was composed of several cell levels. One level would be 100% black, another 80%, 60% etc, all the way down to 10%. A labor intensive process I’m sure, but the result is definitely completely convincing.

12 12 2009
Oscar Grillo

The “rendering” of fur and hair on cell in this film always amazed me.

from hans –
hi oscar. it was done the other way around. the animation and ‘rendering’ on watercolor paper
and the BG’s on cel on top

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