Compared with the reputation of “China Disney”, in 2020, Shanghai Fine Arts Film Studio is more well-known as a rights defender.“The Calabash Brothers” was once the hardest hit area for infringements: as large as the satellite TV station, as small as the WeChat public account, they have been used by the Shanghai Art Film Studio (hereinafter referred to as “Shangmei Film Studio”) for illegally using the animated image of Calabash Baby. “) Sue to the court and demand compensation.
Author: Yin Wan Ni, Editor: Jiang Yue
A paper complaint is not only about trivial matters and noise, but also the ups and downs and glory of the country for dozens of years.
What is rarely known is that due to the cost, “The Calabash Brothers” was actually a product of “cut corners” creation methods. One day in 1984, Hu Jinqing, director of the Shanghai Film Studio, was invited to the office by the leaders to discuss the shooting of a series of paper-cuts.
Picture: Hu Jinqing (middle)
Hu Jinqing frowned when he flipped through the script. The script is “Ten Brothers” adapted from folk tales by Yang Yuliang. The plot is very different from the animation “The Calabash Brothers” that the audience saw later: ten talented brothers jumped from the grave. When they came out, they had clairvoyance, tailwind ears, bronze head and iron bones, long legs, big eyes and other special functions. In order to save the people, the brothers fought against landlords, officials and even the emperor.
The original script involved complicated roles and frequent scene switching-from farmhouses, manors, and government all the way to the palace.
Hu Jinqing replied helplessly: “I can’t make this book.”
He is not afraid of difficulties. In that era, the production of paper-cuts was the least budgeted among the three production departments (animation, puppets, and paper-cuts). Coupled with the tight production cycle, it was difficult to support such a creative volume.
But he had to do it again.
In the 1980s, television began to enter ordinary people’s homes. Beginning with the broadcast of Astro Boy with a neighboring Japanese animation on CCTV in 1980, a large number of high-quality and low-cost foreign animations poured into the domestic market. “Donald Duck’s Adventures in Mathematical Wonderland”, “Snow White” and “Cinderella” produced by Disney in the United States have also been introduced.
In the face of competition, local works fell short. Shangmei Film Studio must face this new challenge.
Not only is the task to be done, but also innovation must be made. Hu Jinqing has been thinking about it for a long time. He changed the complexity into simplicity, changed the ten brothers into seven brothers, and made the seven brothers look the same, only in different colors. He personally participated in the design of the image design of the gourd baby: with cross-brows and anger, open chest and bare feet, colored gourds on the top of the head, and the ends of hair curled to the sides, exaggerated but not failing to be smart.
There is a doll, and the gourd is a symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. The idea of ”seven flowers on a vine, seven gourds and seven babies” was born.
In order to save costs, Hu Jinqing condensed the villain into two roles, snake spirit and scorpion spirit, and the main activity scenes of the pros and the villains were also “limited” in the cave.
After two years and only 70,000 yuan in production costs, “The Calabash Brothers” finally came out in 1986.A total of 13 episodes, each episode is 10 minutes, which was considered a long narrative at the time, and it also broke through the size limit of the Shanghai Film Studio’s animation short films.
“The Calabash Brothers” has won awards both domestically and internationally. The most well-known is the third prize at the Cairo International Children’s Film Festival in Egypt.
Someone once calculated such an account for production costs.
“The Lion King”, which was screened eight years later than “The Calabash Brothers”, created nearly $1 billion in global box office that year. The investment in “The Lion King” reached a record-breaking US$45 million at the time. The animation lasted 89 minutes and the screen frequency was 24 frames per second. In this way, the cost of each frame was about US$351, based on the 1994 exchange rate. It is equivalent to RMB 3054. The Calabash Brothers cost 7 yuan per frame.
The animation legends of that era were created under such an unbalanced ratio of input and output, but “The Calabash Brothers” can be called the pinnacle of paper-cut animation. At the same time, it also marks the “Chinese school” animation. The end of the peak age.
The Shanghai Film Studio is like a magnificent ship left over from the last century. It has crossed glaciers, avoided dangerous beaches, and braved the waves. However, the times have changed. Every component on its body has aged. When the course is reversed, the heavy hull and the aging ship Instead, the parts became shackles, leaving a gorgeous and empty body.
The predecessor of Shangmei Film Studio was the cartoon stock of Northeast Film Studio. The art film group was established in 1949. The following year, the cartoonist and team leader Te Wei and more than 20 animators moved south to Shanghai and became part of the Shanghai Film Studio.
Picture: Te Wei is explaining the character design in “Proud General”
Subsequently, Wan Laiming, Wan Guchan, Wan Chaochen and puppet artist Yu Zheguang from the founders of Chinese animation “Wan Brothers” joined the group. With the continuous expansion of staff, the Shangmei Film Factory was formally established in 1957, with Te Wei as the first factory director.
Since then, action production talents such as Tang Cheng, Xu Jingda, Hu Jinqing, and Dai Tielang have gathered in the factory. Later, they created “Making the Heavenly Palace”, “Nezha Nao the Sea”, “The Calabash Brothers”, and “Black Cat Sheriff”. Series of classic works.
Picture: Group photo of early personnel of Shanghai Film Studio
The Shangmei Film Studio soon ushered in its heyday-in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the famous “Chinese School” was born at this time. It is named after Chinese aesthetics. The pioneering works are “Proud General” in 1956 and “Magic Brush” in 1955. The former is adapted from the idiom story “Grinding the Gun”, the animated characters draw on the art of Peking Opera facial makeup, and the music uses opera gongs and drums; the latter is adapted from the fairy tale “Ma Liang”, a puppet animation.
Starting the brand of national animation is not easy.
In 1956, China’s first color film “Why the Crow is Black” by the Shanghai Film Studio won an award at the Venice Animation Film Festival, but the judges mistakenly thought the film was a Soviet work. It turned out that in the 1950s, all walks of life emphasized “learning from the Soviet Union”, and cartoons were no exception. The embarrassment caused by subtle imitations made Te Wei worry about it.
Te Wei made up his mind to change. He posted the words “walking the road of national style” on the wall of the studio to inspire the entire art team.
Te Wei probably did not expect that his determination would completely rewrite the development path of Chinese animation.
In the 1960s, the ink and wash animations “Little Tadpole Looking for Mother” and “Muddie” directed by Te Wei shocked the world with their unique craftsmanship and numerous awards. To describe the masterpiece of ink-and-wash animation “Little Tadpoles Finding Mother” with a balance between movement and static, I’m afraid it couldn’t be more appropriate.
The director often uses the completely secluded lotus pond scenery as the background. The water plants grow up freely, accompanied by the crisp and melodious music, only groups of small tadpoles swim happily. Or the simple and elegant white flowers on the side are still in bloom, and the frog jumps from the lotus leaf, the flower stems, petals, and even the lotus leaf will not tremble slightly due to the toss of the frog.
Although it is an animation, such a scene is quite the feeling of turning over a Chinese painting album, beautiful and elegant but also agile and interesting.
China’s cinema cartoons have truly embarked on the path of nationalization, and Te Wei is also regarded as the leader of the “Chinese School” of animation. The work that really established the status of the “Chinese School” in the history of animation in the world was “A Rare in Heaven” directed by Wan Laiming and Tang Cheng.
The release of “Havoc in Heaven” has gone through hardships.
A lot of energy was spent on the pre-production of the collection. In 1960, the year Wan Laiming was sixty years old when he took over the filming of “Making Havoc in Heaven”, it took him more than half a year to create the script, and it took him more than two years to draw by hand. In order to find the archetypes of many gods in the film, he took the film crew to Beijing, went to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace to learn about ancient painting, architecture, and sculpture. He also went to the Temple of Heaven and surrounding large and small temples to copy murals.
Picture: Wan Laiming
Everyone also made a special trip to the drama academy, squatting for three months, taking turns to observe the drama, learn martial arts, and refine character movements. Sometimes when the design moves are engrossed, Wan Lao will pick up a stick and wave it with the young man. Once he fell into the pool accidentally, he didn’t care, but solemnly told others: “No one should tell my wife, my pants are wet.”
The finalization of Monkey King’s styling was also very troublesome, and his “face” changed countless times in the middle. Before the painting started, the famous artist Zhang Guangyu was invited to design the styling, which was finally finalized by referring to the monkey king facial makeup in Peking opera.
It took four years, headed by 88 master-level original paintings, and all the production staff drew more than 70,000 paintings, which brought “Havoc in Heaven” to the big screen.
Wan Laiming clearly remembers the scene when he finished the last dubbing-
“The Monkey King that day seemed to be exceptionally vigorous, brave and vigorous. I saw him wearing a goose-yellow shirt, red trousers, a tiger skin skirt tied around his waist, and an emerald green scarf around his neck, waving golden light. The sparkling golden cudgel, and Nezha, who is stepping on the Hot Wheels, are smashed into a ball… The Monkey King, who has been struggling for more than two decades and eager to see it in animation, is finally born. But somehow, My eyes are moist.”
This pinnacle of Chinese animation also pushed the Shanghai Film Studio into a golden age. The film won the Hundred Flowers Award and the Best Picture Award at the London International Film Festival, and was screened in 44 countries, causing a sensation.
The Associated Press has also issued a highly praised article: “It is more fanciful than Disney’s work. It is impossible for the United States to produce such a cartoon.”
It has been praised all over the world, and in China, this animation has really affected entire generations. However, in the 1980s, affected by the wave of processing and foreign animation, the departure of a large number of animation talents led to creative faults, a crisis lurking, and Chinese animation once again fell into a trough.
The production craftsmanship of the Shangmei Film Studio once made the famous Japanese animation directors Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki awe.
Gao Hata-hoon was amazed by Chinese ink-and-wash animation. He had watched Te Wei’s “Little Tadpoles Finding Mother” and was “scared to be silly.” He also borrowed the blanking technique of ink-and-wash animation.
Takahata Hoon once attributed such high-quality animation output to the system of the Shangmei Film Factory at the time-the state was responsible for unified purchase and sales, without calculating the cost. However, he probably didn’t expect that after a trip to the US Film Studio, he would be disappointed.
In 1984, Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who were the producers of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa”, visited China together. The Shangmei Film Studio is naturally a must. They presented the film of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind to the studio, and then the two sides had in-depth exchanges.
However, the senior management of the Shanghai Film Studio asked a lot about the distribution issue. They think that the unified salary is unreasonable, and the piece-rate salary system of Japanese animation companies should be introduced, that is, the salary is calculated according to the amount of the original painting and the amount of animation per second.
Takahata Hoon is well aware of the drawbacks of piece-rate compensation, that is, it does not encourage innovation, and it costs money to keep investing in new short films. “Once you are paid by the piece rate, you will no longer be able to make a movie of the Chinese school.” The two were extremely disappointed in Chinese animation.
As an outsider, it is difficult for Takahata to understand the embarrassment and confusion of Shangmei Film Studio in its transformation.
This year, the Shanghai Fine Arts Film Studio adjusted its leadership team, Yan Dingxian became the director, and Te Wei was the consultant.
Picture: Yan Dingxian is designing Monkey King’s face for “Havoc in Heaven”
Since the 1980s, the problem of talent gaps has become increasingly prominent. In the late 1980s, dozens of foundry companies sprang up in Guangdong.They accept orders from the United States and Japan in batches, pay dozens of times higher than the market, and dig out excellent animation talents everywhere.
The painter of the Shangmei Film Studio is naturally the best candidate to be fancyed.
In 1988, 37 business backbones of the Shangmei Film Factory resigned and went south and joined the processing film company. Nearly three-quarters of the original animation talents in the animation group left. Qin Yizhen, who once served as one of the character design positions in “Nezha Naohai”, also He was once heavily poached by a Shenzhen processing film company and served as a background supervisor.
Talent is the lifeblood of animation works.With the retirement of the leaders of the older generation of Chinese schools and the loss of original animation talents, the creative power of Shangmei Film Studio quickly withered.
Zhou Keqin, who became the director of Shanghai Film Studio in 1989, recorded this extremely bleak year in his annual summary report:
“1989 was an unforgettable year for our Meiying Film Factory, because it was the most difficult year since the establishment of our factory. Over the past few years, a large number of creative staff in our factory have flowed to several foreign animation processing factories in the south. In 1989 nearly a hundred people evacuated…”
Shangmei Film Studio is in decline.
At that time, the model of Shangmei Film Factory was that the state set targets and price acquisitions. Artists didn’t need to take into account the profit and loss of the factory. As long as they reported the production tasks, the state would allocate funds to purchase works at a fixed price. However, after the talents left one after another, the indicators were not fulfilled and the income plummeted. In the early 1990s, the Shanghai Film Studio was even forced to “sell its targets”.
During the period when China’s film industry as a whole was transforming to a market economy, Shanghai Film Studio inevitably suffered pain.
In 1995, the restructuring of unified purchasing and marketing was abolished and the Shanghai Film Studio was completely dragged to the bottom.Facing the market, self-produced and self-sold, and self-financing is a completely unfamiliar model. In the same year, Shanghai Meiying Factory merged with Shanghai TV Station.
At this point, the legend has come to an end.
It was not until the Shanghai Film Studio was instructed to make a commercial “blockbuster”-“Baolian Lantern” as a gift for the 50th anniversary of the National Day in 1999, that Chinese animation practitioners could see a glimmer of afterglow. At this time, Chinese animation films have been silent for more than ten years.
The 53-year-old Chang Guangxi was ordered to return to the front line and became the director of “The Lotus Lantern”.
Picture: Chang Guangxi
He does not forget to focus on keeping up with the world. This time, he canceled the professional voice actors and replaced them with the voices of Jiang Wen, Ning Jing, Xu Fan, Chen Peisi, Liang Tian and other actors. Moreover, the voice was first dubbed, and the creative team then made animations based on the voice, tone, and expression of the voice actors. design. This is exactly the reference to the production process of Hollywood animated films.
The big-name help style is not new now, but it was rare at the time.
The four-year effort of the Shanghai Film Studio has not been exhausted.
On the evening of July 30, 1997, there was a long queue of tens of meters to buy tickets at the gate of Da Guangming Cinema on Nanjing Road in Shanghai.
“Baolian Lantern” became China’s first truly market-oriented animation commercial blockbuster, and it recovered 12 million production costs in less than 3 months. The film finally won 29 million box office, ranking third in the mainland movie box office in 1999, and left behind the Hollywood animation “Mulan”, which was only 11 million yuan.
However, the general trend of the Shanghai Film Studio is finally gone, and a “Baolian Lantern” is obviously weak.
“China Disney”, Shanghai Film Studio is getting further and further away from this identity.
In the first ten years of the 21st century, Shanghai Film Studio created 36 original animations, of which only “Big Ear Tutu” was considered a success. In the second decade, this number had become two, one of which was the sequel animation of the 1986 version of “The Calabash Brothers”.
Looking back at movie animation, there is no longer the legendary work of “Havoc in Heaven” 56 years ago. The Shangmei Film Studios are all leftovers, such as “The Calabash Brothers Movie Version”, “Big Ear Tutu’s Gourmet Rhapsody”, “Avanti’s Romance Adventures” and other works that are deeply related to the past.
The environment has been better.
In 2006, in order to support the domestic animation industry, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television implemented a foreign animation restriction order, that is, all channels at all levels of TV stations across the country are not allowed to broadcast overseas cartoons and related information programs between 17:00 and 20:00 every day.
The number of animations soared under the order of one paper, including two “dominant screen” works-“Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” in 2005 and “Bear Haunted” in 2012.
However, since then, it has been difficult to see Shanghai Film Studio in the field of animation.
Guangdong Original Dynamics Culture Communication Co., Ltd., which produced “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf”, has been established for 16 years and has created six animation works. Only one animation of “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” can pay dividends. As of August this year, “Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf” has broadcast a total of 33 works of 2513 episodes, and the production is still ongoing.
And “Bear Infestation” produced by Shenzhen Huaqiang Digital Animation Co., Ltd. has already released as many as nine major IP movies, which is not counted as the two originally scheduled to be released in 2020.
Whether it is in terms of production volume or IP development results, Shangmei Film Studio is unable to do so.
In recent years, when it became the focus of the public again, it was only because of large and small rights protection cases, such as the Hulu Brothers.
On September 9 this year, the Shanghai Intellectual Property Court of the first instance ruled that the cartoon of “The Calabash Brothers” was infringed by the comics, animations and games of “A Hundred Thousand Chill Jokes”, and the Shanghai Film Studio was awarded 500,000 yuan.
Moving forward, in 2019, Shanghai Film Studio sued Anhui Satellite TV for “Laugh When You Come” and the program producer, and received a compensation of 100,000 yuan.
In 2014, Shangmei Film Studio initiated a lawsuit against the use of the animated image of “Gourd Brothers” in Hunan Satellite TV’s “Big Change Show” and received a compensation of 100,000 yuan.
The copyright income is indeed not a small sum in the profits of the Shanghai Film Studio. Deputy director Zhu Yuping once revealed in an interview with the media that “the 30,000-minute authorized film library plus overseas sales generate tens of millions of yuan in copyright revenue each year.”
Protecting one’s own intellectual property rights is naturally a reasonable thing.But the audience expects it more than that, at least in terms of creation, it should have more actions.To put it another way, it should have its name in the main creative team that produces high-quality animated films.
The environment is getting better.
Guoman is emerging in a new form. From 2015 to the present, popular animations such as “The Return of the Great Sage”, “The Big Fish and Begonia”, “White Snake: Origin”, and “Nezha: The Devil Boy Comes into the World” have been born on the big screen.
These works are excellent in terms of artistic form and creative quality. Their animation plots are also adapted from classical novels, historical narratives, folklore, etc. without exception. There is no lack of national flavor. From this point of view, it is quite There is a taste of “Chinese school”.
As for the commercial box office, “Nezha: The Devil Boy Comes to the World” won nearly 5 billion box office, ranking the top of the mainland movie box office in 2019. Animation themes top the list, which is unprecedented.
The Shanghai Film Studio is becoming a thing of the past.Its participation in the new era can’t help but sigh–opening an official flagship store on the e-commerce platform, launching a joint “Calabash Brothers” series of makeup, making game IP cross-border…
Create momentum and profit, but no works.
Unfortunately, “The Calabash Brothers” is 34 years old, and the legal protection period for its intellectual property rights is 50 years. In this way, the Shangmei Film Studio will only have 16 years of income generation through litigation. Losing this trump card would make it difficult for the Shanghai Film Studio to attract attention again.
An animation researcher once lamented that time passes quickly:
“Let Zhang Guangyu design the Monkey King, and let Li Keran paint the shepherd boy. Such a thing will never happen again in the age when the master’s paintings are insignificant. And a cartoon has to be polished for 4 years. Which investor today? Have such courage and patience?”
The Shanghai Film Studio and the masters closely bound to it created the first golden age of Chinese animation. Capital confidence is limited, but the determination of the latecomers is boundless, and the road ahead is long, and they never move forward.
The national cultural traditions persisted by the previous generations are still continuing. Unfortunately, for the Shanghai Film Studio, the past is over.
Shangmei Film Studio is old, but fortunately, Guoman has a future.
1. “The Rise and Fall of Shanghai Fine Arts Film Studio”, “Looking East Weekly”
2. “The Socialist They Realize the Art of Animation-Ghibli Founder Takahata Hoon Talks about Animated Movies”, Zhi Feina, “Southern Weekend”
3. “Forty Years of Tragedy: The Sad Past of Chinese Animation”, the house is less and the house is reasonable
4. “The End of the Chinese Art Film Era: Nothing in the World”, Xiaozhu, Mtime