Shanghai Animation Film Studio

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Shanghai Animation Film Studio
Industry Entertainment
Predecessor Animation Department
Founded Shanghai, China (April 1957 (1957-04))
Headquarters Shanghai,, China
Key people
Wan Brothers,
Te Wei
Yu Zheguang
Products Animated feature films (anime), Motion pictures, Television, Music

Shanghai Animation Film Studio (simplified Chinese: 上海美术电影制片厂; traditional Chinese: 上海美術電影製片廠; pinyin: Shàng Hǎi Měi Shù Diàn Yǐng Zhì Piān Chǎng) also known as SAFS (simplified Chinese: 美影厂; traditional Chinese: 美影廠; pinyin: Měi Yǐng Chǎng) a part of Shanghai Film Group Corporation was founded in April 1957 in Shanghai, which is one of the oldest animation studio in China. It has produced mostly 500 films with over 40,000 minutes of original animation data source which covers 80% of domestic animation production in China. It has the title of “the most valuable repository of animation in China". It was probably the only animation studio in Chairman Mao's China and produced numerous classic animated films that are still popular today.[1]

SAFS film were produced in various art forms with Chinese characteristics that has a rich and profound traditional Chinese culture, including Jianzhi, Shuimohua, Puppetoon, Zhezhi (also known as origami), Shadow puppetry, etc. It also had several international cooperations with various studio around world.[2]

Chinese people born after 1950 had all grown up with animations produced by SAFS. It has become an essential part of childhood memory of all generations after 1950s.[3]


Animation Department (1946-1957)[edit]

Shanghai Animation Film Studio was a former cartoon group under the art department of Northeast Film Studio. Northeast Film Studio was established in the Hegang Heilongjiang province on October 1, 1946, after the disbandment of its predecessor Manchukuo Film Association. It was the first known studio established by a communist party.[4]

In 1948, the cartoon group was pulled out from the art department and became an individual department called animation department. It was soon divided to Shanghai Film Studio the following year, after Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China (PRC) from atop Tiananmen. By 1950, the whole department had moved to Shanghai as well as great artists from the Wan Brothers, Central Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Suzhou and other leading institutions. They developed their unique style of rich Chinese characteristic after the success of Jiao Ao De Jiang Jun (The Conceited General) and The Magical Pen in both domestic and international market. In 1955, they produced the first colour animation Wūyā Wèishénme Shì Hēi De (Why the Crow is Black). It was also the first Chinese animation that won international prizes.

Establishment (1957-1966)[edit]

Shanghai Animation Film Studio was finally established in April 1957 with the help of government funding. They were way behind the world technically, but were encouraged to make films by using unique Chinese technics only. In 1958 the Wan brothers created a new technique, Jianzhi. In 1960, a new form of animation, Zhezhi (also known as origami), was created by Yu Zheguang along with his film Cōnɡmínɡ De Yāzi (The Clever Duck).The Smart Duckling. In the same year, Te Wei developed an animation technic of ink wash which was inspired by the famous ink wash artist Qi Baishi to make his film Where is Mama?. He said

This film was recognized in many international film festivals, including the Locarno International Film Festival in 1961, the 4th Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 1962 and 17th Cannes Film Festival in 1964.[6]

Cultural Revolution (1966-1975)[edit]

Chinese animation was in its golden age until the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966. Fortunately the government did not cut Shanghai Animation Film Studio's funding, and animation was the only art form that artists can express freely through permitted by Chairman Mao. Ironically, by freely Chairman Mao also meant ideas that support the party. Only a few animation could be produced during this time, including Support Vietnamese to fight against America, “Support Vietnamese to fight against America” and “ expose the peace negotiation conspiracy of America”, the animations that was purely "red washed". This was a serious impact, and slowed the progress of Chinese animation.

Present (1975-Present)[edit]

In 1992 one of the first western company to come in contact with the studio is "Prrfect Animation" in San Francisco, United States. They attempted to bring efficiency, dependability and quality control into the program.[7] In 2001, the studio became part of the Shanghai Film Group Corporation.

In March 2013, the studio sued Apple Inc. for selling over 110 of their films in iTunes without authorization.[8]

Current Issue[edit]

A concern of SAFS today is brain drain. After 1965, American producers were forced to seek for cheap artist labours in less developed countries in order to cut their budget, due to the rising labour cost of domestic animation artists. Japan was their first choice. Thus boosted the development of animation production in Japan and Asia. As the Japanese industry matures, the cost rises. Japanese artists are no longer the first choice of American producers. The emergence of gifted young animation artists with minimum wage in China after the Chinese economic reform became their new option. High income with welfare promises has successfully attracted many young talents to work for American Companies.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Du, Daisy Yan (2012). On the Move: The Trans/national Animated Film in 1940s-1970s China. University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
  2. ^ "The cradle of Chinese Cartoon - Shanghai Animation Film Studio about us". Shanghai Animation Film Studio - Indtroduce. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Hello childhood - Is diting Shanghai Animation Film Studio also a part of your childhood?". People's daily 's Weibo. People's Daily. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "Chinese Movie Industry: Northeast Film Studio". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Creating Classics: The Golden Ages of Animation in China". queensland art gallery of modern art. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "水墨动画——中国心灵.". Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Sinomation: Shanghai Animation Studio. "Sinomation." Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Retrieved on 2006-12-27.
  8. ^ Reisinger, Don (29 March 2013). "Chinese animation studio sues Apple over iTunes Store sales". CNET. Retrieved 4 August 2015. 
  9. ^ Zhangh, Yue (2005-04-14). "Shanghai Animation Film Studio: from the innocent days to the world wa". BJNEWS. Retrieved 12 August 2014.