Yesterday we looked at Boonie Bears, a Chinese attempt to emulate Western-style computer animation. But at the risk of overgeneralizing contemporary Chinese animation on the basis of their most derivative and commercial efforts, I wanted to offer another perspective.
In addition to China’s rapidly growing and well funded commercial animation sector, the country also has a large and growing community of artists who value creative expression and want to develop a more artistic animation community. A recent project that exemplifies the push toward independent filmmaking is Ruuuun!!, a two-minute short by the collective BingTangHuLuer, founded in 2012 and comprised of nearly a dozen members who live throughout China (primarily in Beijing).
The producer of Ruuuun!! goes by the pseudonym Mr. Tea. He tells me that the the name of their group, BingTangHuLuer, is the phonetic transcription of ‘sugar-coated haws,’ a traditional Chinese food. “Haws and other fruits are strung together to form into sugar-coated haws,” Mr. Tea says. “Just like those, we collect many people to create one animation and that’s why we chose that as the name of our animation collective.”
Mr. Tea says that it’s challenging to make personal animated films in China for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a homegrown independent animation scene, an absence of governmental and institutional support for personal filmmaking, and intense labor demands on industry artists. “In China, it’s common to work overtime and [experience] other situations that make people feel gloomy,” Mr. Tea says. “When young people who graduate want to produce their own artwork, they usually don’t have enough time to make a short film.”
To compensate for the lack of time that artists have to devote to personal projects, BingTangHuLuer produces collaborative animated projects with dozens of artists participating in the creation of each film. In the case of Ruuuun!!, over one hundred artists contributed to the final piece. The other pieces embedded in this post had more modestly sized crews. Mr. Tea cites earlier collaborative films like Academy Leader Variations and the PSST! Pass It On series as inspiration for their group approach to filmmaking.
BingTangHuLuer uses the Internet both to recruit new artists and to distribute the finished pieces. Another Internet-based project of the group is AnimeTaste.net, a Chinese-language animation website that discusses contemporary and classic animation from around the world. I first learned about the group because of that site after Mr. Tea inquired about permission to translate an article from Cartoon Brew, which I gave them permission to do.
As we head into the new year, not to mention Cartoon Brew’s 10th anniversary, we plan to expand our coverage of the burgeoning global animation scene. The animation community is growing at a phenomenal rate, whether it’s China, Nigeria or Uruguay. Cartoon Brew intends to cover global trends and developments with the same thoroughness that we cover animation closer to home.