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. We follow the Monkey King and his friends on their journey to the west. As they reach Fire Mountain they are unable to pass because of the fire but learn that a special iron fan can quench the flames. However, the fan belongs to Princess Iron Fan and she will not willingly lend it to them.
When adapting a simple tale, all you can fuck up with is, well, the adaptation. The reason why Snow White is so acclaimed and memorable isn't because of its ingenious storytelling, but rather its audiovisual timelessness. By displaying so much prowess, it stood the test of time quite effortlessly. The same cannot be said about Wan Brothers' attempt to make animation on pair with Disney's high quality standards.
Tie Shan Gongzhu is fluid with passable backgrounds... and as far as presentation goes that is pretty much it. On the negative side however, everything is kinda messed up. The positioning of cels is inconsistent throughout, the
lighting is so poorly done it's sometimes impossible to distinguish elements on screen, characters go off-model when they shouldn't, vectors are all over the place making it a lot harder to discern directions, weirdly unseemly angles, numerous glitches, and depth during some scenes is pretty much nonexistent. All that combined is disorienting enough already, but honestly, nothing comes close to how annoyingly loud and erratic the sound recording is. It can deafen you, so beware.
I really appreciate the ethos at play here and that various artists struggled through war to realize their artistic vision, but it's undeniably dated, to a degree it is almost an impossible watch. They wanted to make the first full-length Chinese animated movie, and they did just that, in a case I can only call sacrificing quality for historical achievement. With that said, I don't recommend watching it unless you're interested in what it represents rather than what it has to offer.
After seeing Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937, the Wan Brothers in China were inspired to created their own feature-length film in 1941. Princess Iron Fan was the result, China's first feature-length animated film.
STORY - 7/10
Based off of the Journey to the West from the sixteenth century, it follows the Buddhist priest Tripitaka and his three bodyguards Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy as they come across a cruel buffalo-headed king who controls a mountain of fire and his wife who has the only item that will allow them to pass - a magic iron fan. Monkey has to defeat the princess in
order to quench the flames and save the villagers. All in all, it's a pretty predictable adaptation of Journey to the West, and nothing really stands out as creative.
ART - 6/10
For 1941, the animation is neither very good or bad. It features a odd mixture of rotoscoped animation (the tracing of live-action footage) and traditional, clunky and stilted animation. The rotoscoping was done to save time and money, and it was actually used to a pretty good effect in the film and the result is very smooth animation. The problem is that it sticks out like a sore thumb every time it's used because it contrasts with the clunky animation everywhere else. The backgrounds are beautiful though, and some of the effects animation with fire and wind is pretty impressive.
SOUND - 5/10
Pretty standard 40's soundtrack. Nothing spectacular. The voice acting could be better as well, as it's pretty much non-stop yelling. A few songs are thrown in for good measure (probably a result of Snow White's influence on the Wan Brothers) but they're basically just a stop to the story and don't really add much.
CHARACTER - 5/10
The Monkey King character was actually pretty likeable, despite being slightly predictable. Most of the other characters are pretty one-dimensional, however.
ENJOYMENT - 7/10
I enjoyed it, but I was watching for the historical aspect, it being China's first animated feature film. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a film on its own, though, as it's not very interesting and hard to watch at some points.
Just about everyone on this site is familiar with Japanese Animation (anime), but what about their next-door neighbors across the ocean? In this article, we’ll take a look into the development of Chinese anime, from its beginnings to the present, and some examples to check out.