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Home » Film Festival » Chinese Animation: Uproar in Heaven (1964)

Please use this forum to discuss Asia-focused feature and documentary films. Create a new topic for each newly introduced film (put the title in the subject line). If someone has already started a discussion about a film, please add your comments to that discussion rather than starting a new topic.
11/5/2016 9:17:18 PM

Posts: 68
Subject: Chinese Animation: Uproar in Heaven (1964)
The film, Da Nao Tian Gong,[font=sans-serif] or Uproar in Heaven, was originally produced as a two part film by the Wan Brothers at the Shanghai Animation Film Studio. Released in 1961 and 1964, it was was originally 106 minutes in length, but has since been edited down and remastered to a total of 87 minutes. The story follows the early adventures of Sun Wukong, a character known in the western world as The Monkey King. It is based upon the Chinese novel, Journey to the West, which was written by Wu Ch'eng-en and published in 1571 C.E..[/font]
[font=sans-serif]The Wan brothers are credited with establishing the Chinese animation industry and had produced the first ever Chinese feature film, Princess Iron Fan, in 1941. It had originally been intended to animate this story in the early 1940's, but both World War II and the subsequent Civil War between the Communist and Nationalist forces delayed this project. It was launched shortly after Wan Laiming took over management of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio and brought his three brothers onto the project. .[/font]The completed film was considered to be one of the greatest achievements of the Second Golden Era of Chinese Cinema. Not only did it receive praise within China, but it received kudos from the international film community as well. Unfortunately, it was also the last great animated feature to come from China for many years as it, and the Shanghai Animation Studio, fell victim to the Cultural Revolution the year after it was released.

The film itself follows Sun Wukong's battle with the Jade Emperor of Heaven and the chaos that results from the Emperor's efforts to subjugate the Monkey King and his disciples. The metaphor of the Monkey King as representing Mao Zedong is easily seen as well as his followers within the Flower and Fruit Mountain representing modern China. Ironically, the Uproar in Heaven can also be associated with the Cultural Revolution itself, even though the application of this idea is more in hindsight than any of the Wan Brothers could ever have intended. This is especially true when in the film Sun Wukong is lured to heaven and is given a series of meaningless tasks in the hopes he can be controlled by the Jade Emperor. (Following the closure of their animation studio, the Wan brothers were sent to work on a remote farm as part of their "re-education" process.) What the gods in heaven do not understand is that The Monkey King is himself a force of nature, representing the trickster of Chinese literature, and is thus uncontrollable.

The animation is quite good, using a fluid style that moves well across the screen and a flurry of bright, contrasting colors as chaotic as Sun Wukong himself. Add to this a musical score consisting of percussion instruments and drums that draws inspiration from the Beijing Opera. The film can be found on Youtube thanks to its current status as being in public domain. (The URL is: ). It is sub-titled, preserving the original Chinese dialogue, yet allowing viewers to sit back and relax as they watch. As a historical and cultural resource, this film makes a fine primary source for use in the classroom. One final comment. The Youtube version has been restored to its original 106 minute format, so viewers will be able to experience the entire film without the editing or changes made later.
edited by jhayden on 11/5/2016
edited by jhayden on 11/6/2016

Home » Film Festival » Chinese Animation: Uproar in Heaven (1964)

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