Princess Iron Fan
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Adapted from the popular Chinese folk tale "Journey to the West," and produced by the Wan brothers in the midst of World War II, Princess Iron Fan is the first feature length animated film produced in China. We follow the Monkey King and his friends on their journey to the west. As they reach Fire Mountain they are unable to pass because of the fire but learn that a special iron fan can quench the flames. However, the fan belongs to Princess Iron Fan and she will not willingly lend it to them.
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What was the state of animation when "Princess Iron Fan" was made over three years, through 1940? Surely "Felix the Cat," the 1920s fleshed-out character, would have made its way to China. The Wan Brothers, who created "Princess Iron Fan," had become leading Chinese animators by the 1930s by merging live action with cartoon. Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1937. Would the Wans have seen it? Yes. Yet Japan invaded China in '37 and there are reports the Wan workshop was bombed in the Shanghai invasion. "Princess Iron Fan" began then, crafted by 237 animators drawing on pieces of paper.
While Princess Iron Fan may be disappointing when compared to Snow White, or its lengthy literary inspiration Journey to the West, it's still not bad overall. The quality of the animation is actually better than I expected it to be, and many of the scenes are still quite imaginative and true to the book. It actually looks a lot like an American cartoon short to me. Even the music and bad sound effects aren't all that different from the old American cartoon shorts.
In summary, Princess Iron Fan is simply too long for a short and too undetailed for a film. Still, for historic reasons, it's well worth watching once if you're able to find it.