Published: 15:42, June 14, 2024
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Vintage animation gets fresh update at exhibition
By Zhang Kun
Visitors interact with the Window Project artwork. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Vintage films by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio are projected at the Inlet, a new lifestyle hub in Shanghai's Hongkou district, alongside more recent notable animation films from across China.

A Dialogue Beyond Time and Space is an exhibition jointly hosted by Shanghai Animation Film Studio and the HiShorts! Film Festival.

Taking place from June 8 to the end of August, it features some of the "forgotten gems" of animated films by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio, as well as a series of new animation films curated by the HiShorts! Film Festival. It is a leading festival in China featuring short film productions of no more than 40 minutes.

Since its founding in 1957, the animation film studio has created more than 500 feature films.

Some widely beloved productions, such as the Monkey King, have been so popular through the past decades that they conjure treasured childhood memories of different Chinese generations, says Wang Anyi, a staff member of the studio.

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"We have selected 36 films from our archives, which are as brilliant as the most beloved classics but are less known to the public because they have had fewer opportunities for projection."

Some of the vintage films, such as the 1963 film Princess Peahen, have been restored with 4K technology, exhibiting vivid colors and fresh brightness.

Also showcased are films selected by the HiShorts! Film Festival. With the first installation launched in Xiamen of Fujian province in 2019, the festival has been held annually, receiving more than 7,000 entries from 118 countries and regions in 2023.

"We have discovered through the festival's past five sessions that the cutting-edge animation filmmakers in China are keen to borrow from traditional Chinese art, such as the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) brick and stone pictorial reliefs and the Buddhist frescoes of Dunhuang," says Zeng Yiling, a staff member for the festival.

Audiences enjoy the restored animation movies by the Shanghai Animation Film Studio. (PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The films are arranged in four chapters, showcased in posters, manuscripts, stopmotion puppets, storyboards and so on, revealing the creative process and evolution of the art and craft of animation filmmaking.

"This exhibition is a dialogue that goes beyond time and space when we rediscover the heritage and artistic achievements of pioneering animation artists," says Peng Yong, deputy general manager of the animation film studio.

"It also provides new inspiration and motivation for the younger generation of animation creators."

Qiu Anxiong, the curator of the exhibition, recalls his childhood experience of watching cartoon movies shown before the feature film in the cinema.

"Very often I enjoyed the cartoon more than the feature film," he says.

Later on, when he became a contemporary artist, cartoon movies, such as Nezha Against the Dragon King, inspired him to create one of his most significant art projects, The New Book of Mountains and Seas.

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"As a child, I watched the cartoon movies simply for fun, without any artistic or aesthetic judgment," he says at the opening.

"When I grew up and became a professional artist, I took a fresh look at them and found them artistically impeccable, often with elements of Chinese ink painting and other strong stylistic expressions."

The Shanghai studio has achieved such artistic heights that it was widely recognized in the world animation art scene as the representative China school.

"Looking back, I feel more and more grateful for the artistic nourishment these films brought me as a child," he says.

Qiu has brought together a group of contemporary artists to create The Window Project for the exhibition, consisting of installations, live music, poetry, performances and more.

All those are showcased in giant glass boxes in different corners of the Inlet, a lifestyle hub refurbished from old houses along eight lanes at the juncture of Sichuan Road North and Haining Road in the city.