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November 6, 2021

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Digitally restored animation classic released

WITH English subtitles, the 4K restoration of “Legend of Sealed Book,” a classic animated film from Shanghai Animation Film Studio, was released in Chinese cinemas yesterday, 38 years after its production and television debut.

Highlighting the original images and dubbing, the film also pays tribute to the city’s older generation of animators who have made significant contributions to the development of Chinese animation.

Co-directed by Qian Yunda and Wang Shuchen, the film is considered one of the animation film studio’s best features for its artistry, imagination and story-telling method. It’s also a memory of the post-1980s and 1990s generations of Chinese people who grew up watching the film.

Based on the ancient Chinese story “The Suppression of the Demons,” the film is about how a boy incubated from a swan egg stops the vicious things three foxes do to human beings after they learn magic from a heavenly book.

Many characters in the film are inspired by the images and makeup of traditional Chinese operas. Elements of Chinese ink and wash painting, ancient Chinese architecture and customs like dragon and lion dances as well as stilt-walking are also incorporated into its poetic and fantasy scenes. Moreover, ancient Chinese philosophy makes the story thought-provoking, catering to people of different ages.

In an era with no computers, it was a formidable challenge for Chinese animators to create the 89-minute film. In the early 1980s, the studio gathered the country’s best animators, who spent around three years drawing 120,000 sketches for the movie. Six members of the film crew have already passed away, including co-director Wang, scriptwriter Bao Lei and image designer Ke Ming.

Digital restoration of the time-honored film commenced in 2018. Technicians spent a great deal of time treating the original film footage’s scratches, dirt and the flickering issues, and the color, lighting and sound were enhanced with digital technology.

“The film displays the wisdom and devotion of our predecessors,” said Su Da, director of the animation film studio. “We have learned from them and will present more good Chinese animation.”

According to Li Wei, co-director of the animated film “Legend of Deification,” the distinctive artistry of Chinese animation once influenced animators around the world. As a young animation filmmaker, he feels a strong sense of responsibility to preserve and develop the art.

Industry insiders also note that the richness of Chinese culture and abundant ancient legends will inspire more original animated works that appeal to a global audience.


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