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) is a part of the Shanghai Film Group Corporation. Founded in April 1957 in Shanghai, it is one of the oldest animation studios in China. It has produced around 500 films with over 40,000 minutes of original animation data source, covering 80% of China's domestic animation production. 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 studios around the world.[2]

Chinese people born after 1950 have all grown up with animations produced by SAFS. It has become an essential part of childhood memory of all generations since the 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 along with the Wan Brothers as well as great artists from Central Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Suzhou and other leading institutions. The studio's animators developed their unique style of rich Chinese characteristic after the success of The Conceited General and The Magical Pen in both the domestic and international markets. In 1955, they produced the first Chinese colour animation Why is the Crow Black-Coated. 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 techniques 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 Smart Duckling). In the same year, Te Wei developed an animation technique of ink wash which was inspired by the famous ink wash artist Qi Baishi to make his film Where is Mama. He said

Where is Mama 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 brought to a larger audience when the Cultural Revolution was initiated in 1966 through the establishment of "Peoples cinemas", which in its most primitive forms of poorer villages could be nothing but a white sheet and a projector. One of the most recognized Chinese Animations "Havoc in Heaven", which is about a legendary monkey named Wukong who wants to destroy the old world, has a strong Cultural Revolution theme. The film builds on an old Buddhist legend together with the political message of the "Four Olds campaign" "破四旧立四新" and Mao Zedong's motto "Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent". Unlike some artforms, the government did not cut Shanghai Animation Film Studio's funding. Animations was one of the art forms used to further the emancipatory ideology of the working class. Most animations made during this era made use of propaganda to educate illiterate groups of the masses about contemporary political affairs, including Support Vietnamese to Fight Against America, Expose the Peace Negotiation Conspiracy of America, and After School. Just like in La Nouvelle Vague France during the same time allot of experimentation was made with theatre and moving pictures.

Present (1975-Present)[edit]

In 1992, one of the first western companies to come in contact with the studio was "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]

Main Productions[edit]

1989 Reynard The Fox with Manfred Durniok Filmproduktion (German), and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (German)

1998 Around the World in Eighty Days with Manfred Durniok Film (German)

1997 The Toothbrush Family with Southern Star Entertainment (Australia), and Film Australia

2000 A Miss Mallard Mystery with Cookie Jar Entertainment (Canada)

Current issue[edit]

A concern of SAFS today is brain drain. After 1965, American producers were forced to seek out 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. This 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. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. 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. Archived from the original on 7 August 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  6. ^ "水墨动画——中国心灵". Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Hutman, Kenneth. "Sinomation: Shanghai Animation Studio -- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow". Animation World Network. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  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.