Uproar in Heaven 1961
Image from the film 1979- Ne Zha Conquers the Dragon King 哪咤闹海
Like many other countries, China went through a series of wars and political change which overshadowed its pure innovative spirit and cultural expansion. In the past, China had many artists who dreamed of creating an animation style that was strictly Chinese. Folk music combined with stylized landscapes and ancient myths were brought to life, gushing with colors. But that belongs to a past that is alarmingly unknown. Now the new generation is eager to avoid the burdens of a complicated history and is reinventing its animation industry. Though the Chinese are diverging from the classical style, it is still important to perserve the past, to cherish the classics, and to respect those who gave China's Animation Industry its fascinating infrastructure. Hopefully, China's animation industry can build up to what it was before.
The Wan Brothers 万氏兄弟- Wan Lai Ming, Wan Gu Chan, Wan Chao Chen, and Wan Di Huan. Wan Lai Ming is most well known to the public. His twin brother is Wan Gu Chan. They are accredited with finding the classical animation style, as well as serving the Shanghai Animation Studio 上海美术电影制片厂, the first studio found by the Communist Party.
The Brothers were born in Nanjing, China. Their father wanted them to be businessmen. Their mother, on the other hand, taught the boys how to cut paper into traditional stylized puppets. In this way the Wan Brothers developed their art skills. They were in love with the Journey to the West, an epic story known throughout China about a monk and his three disciples, and based their puppet shows on that story. Later, Wan Lai Ming and Wan Gu Chan moved to Shanghai to make advertisements for the Shanghai Commercial Press. In their spare time, the twins would go to the movie theater (Shanghai was China's cultural mecca) and watch whatever Western films were available. After watching films like Disney's Snow White, they would cram inside a small room and experiment with animation techniques in a huge sketchbook. From there, the Wan Brothers began their careers.
The Wan Brothers were so highly acclaimed that even Osamu Tezuka---the creator of Astro Boy and the alleged founder of the Japanese anime style--- visited them in China to pay his respects.
Here is a more in depth biography of the Wan Brothers from the ASIFA Hollywood Animation Archive http://www.animationarchive.org/2008/09/filmography-wan-brothers-monkey-king.html
Brief Timeline- many of these films can be found on Youtube or Baidu (China's Search Engine)
1925- First animation ever- Shu Zhen Dong Chinese Typewriter 舒振東華文打字機
1926- First animated short film (silent) - Uproar in the Studio 大闹画室 This footage is now lost. It was a combined live action and animation footage about an artist working in his studio, when suddenly a person made of paper jumps out of the page and causes a hullabalo.
1935- First animated short with sound- the Camel's Dance 骆驼献舞
1937-1945- Second Sino Japanese War. Wan Brothers made propoganda films.
1941- First full length animated film (black and white)- Princess Iron Fan 铁扇公主The Wan Brothers went all out with the rotoscope on this one... you could see the live action behind the characters lol.
1949-1976 Cultural Revolution forces many animators to quit the studios.
1956-First full length animated film in color- Why is the Crow Black Coated 乌鸦为什么是黑 A beautiful lesson on vanity for your kids!
1959- Yu Tong - 渔童 You get to see a different perspective on missionaries---the theme of imperialism dominates the entire film.
1961-Uproar in Heaven (also known as Havoc in Heaven)大闹天宫This is the Wan Brothers' most popular achievement.
1979- Ne Zha Conquers the Dragon King 哪咤闹海