On the horse of high expectations

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Monkey King: A Hero's Return [Photo provided to China Daily]


Tradition is guiding other animators as well.

"Chinese early animations were not commercial products," says Li Guanyu, 37, the head of the animation department at Communication University of Shanxi. "These animations were art."

Li, founder of an animation studio in Shanxi province, Shrub Culture, says that when he was a child he was fond of Japanese manga and Chinese traditional picture-story books.

He opened a student cartoon club and sold comic books when he was still in college in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

In 2002 he obtained a degree in graphic design and went to Beijing, where he worked with various companies for a year, before studying at Shanghai Animation Film Studio for six months.

His excitement is clear as he recalls that experience.

"Despite their age, the old artists taught us the very details of the animations they made," he says, before reciting a string of artists' names and their works.

"I was fond of animation before and did not foresee how far I would go on this road, but after seeing the enduring passion of the older practitioners I realized that making good animations is worth a lifetime."

Li thinks all animations are shaped by the art of the time.

Works by Shanghai Animation Film Studio are heavily influenced by traditional Chinese art, he says.

"For example, the chief artist of Havoc in Heaven, Zhang Guangyu, took in elements from folk decoration to design the anime's background."

These animations were made by the country's top directors and artists, too, he says.

"The director of Havoc in Heaven is Wan Laiming, one of the Wan brothers who were the trailblazers of China's animation."

Since those days, making Chinese traditional art appealing to modern people has gradually become Li's guideline in his creation.

At the moment his studio is working on an animated TV series, Kiki and Kaka.

The main characters are two tigers in the form of cloth dolls, a traditional craft in Shanxi listed as a national cultural heritage in 2008.

"My children liked it," says Li, a father of two. "They have watched it over and over again."

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