Te Wei (1915-2010)

The master of Chinese animation, Te Wei (Sheng Tewei), has passed away at age 95.

Te Wei, a pioneering animator and cartoonist, was one of the founding fathers of the Shanghai Animation Studio. His most significant film of the 1950s was The Conceited General, which I’ve embedded below:

In the 1960s his animation style was influenced by the painter Qi Baishi. His 1963 mastepiece, The Cowboy’s Flute (Part 1 below), is one of the most beautiful films from China – or anywhere.

(Thanks, Saturnome)


  • Isaac

    The Conceited General has such masterful animation. There’s a lot to learn from Te Wei.

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    Definitely a master and a visionary.

  • http://www.tubbirdbelty.blogspot.com Barbara

    so beautiful!

  • http://www.hipchickcomics.com Ashanti

    I’m so inspired. Thank you!

  • http://dltad.blogspot.com A.M.Bush

    Those were really cute to watch. Am I right in assuming that the General and his assistant are animated to look like classic Chinese theater characters? Their movement reminded me of that old clip of Bruce Lee doing those chinese theater moves. Too bad more Chinese animation didn’t evolve from this style.

  • http://www.subisuround2.blogspot.com Adrienne Jenkins

    I’m living in Korea now, and was fortunate to find a nice 2-disc DVD collection of the works he did based on Qi Baishi paintings. It’s called “Chinese Classic Animation Te Wei Collection.” Highly recommended. I am going to be in China on Friday, and will hunt for “The Concieted General” as well. I can’t help wishing “Mulan” had looked more like “The Cowherd’s Flute.”

  • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

    Gorgeous animation . Thank you for noting the passing of this great master and directing attention towards his fine work.

    @Adrienne Jenkins who wrote “I can’t help wishing “Mulan” had looked more like “The Cowherd’s Flute.”

    As I remember it early on in the production Hans Bacher was pushing for the line style on Mulan to be similar to the inked brush work seen in films like The Cowherd’s Flute. (at least I recall it was Hans’ idea … if he sees this he can confirm whether the idea was directly inspired by Te Wei’s work.) I spent my first weeks on Mulan (while still located in Burbank, at the “hat building”) attempting to clean-up an early test scene of Mushu by Tom Bancroft with a brush marker. (it was slow-going; a radical shift from the usual Disney feature clean-up approach. At the time it was a struggle, but I think I could have eventually got it to work.) Then I had to move to Florida and in the month-and-a-half long interval of getting my family moved across the country and myself getting settled into a new work routine at the Florida studio I discovered that the idea had been abandoned as “impractical” for the Disney system of clean-up (which it may very well have been in those days , given the production system in place) , so I never finished my brush marker clean-up test. For the final film we did try to maintain a look of “thick and thin” strokes in the line work based off of the style set for us by lead character designer Chen Yi Chang. And a brief segment during the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For” does have some animation done with a full Chinese brush look . (animated by Broose Johnson)

    If Mulan were being made in today’s world of paperless animation I believe that if would be practical to use an application like TVPaint Animation which has a very fine set of “Chinese Brush” tools to achieve that brush inked look even in the hierarchical assembly line clean-up system used for feature animation at Disney.

    I am still astounded at the subtle control and beauty of the hand-inked line work in the films of Te Wei.

  • http://www.thepra.com.au Hugh Nguyen

    Very sad. A few years ago, we were very fortunate to have the chance to work with the Shanghai Animation Film Studio on a short film co-production. The studio and its people took a lot of pride in these old films that were unique and distinctly chinese. These films used a lot of techniqes – cel, stop-motion, cut out etc. they’re real gems if you get the chance to see them.

    Most of those older films that found festival success were pre-cultural revolution. The role of the studio changed a lot over the years with the changing political climate: from promoting cultural pride, to propaganda films, to outsource studio. They went through some years where they didn’t do so well financially and in their present form now, do a lot of outsource work.

    As THE state owned animation studio, they’re also required to produce features and series on a regular timeframe. As a result some of these are rushed and not of the best quality. Things are changing there. They’re currently making “The Magic Gourd”, an animated co-pro with Disney.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    “They went through some years where they didn’t do so well financially and in their present form now, do a lot of outsource work.”

    Shame, I was kinda hoping they would be more into trying to cultivate newer forms of animation and letting those animators develop their own personal style or approach to telling more contemporary stories and themes.

    “As THE state owned animation studio, they’re also required to produce features and series on a regular timeframe. As a result some of these are rushed and not of the best quality. Things are changing there. They’re currently making “The Magic Gourd”, an animated co-pro with Disney.”

    Funny, I thought the movie came out already, or is this something else?