Course Syllabus: CHI 4930 ANIMATION IN CHINA (Sean Macdonald, University of Florida)

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By Sean Macdonald


MAT   0115— T 7 (1:55-2:45)                                  

MAT   0115— R 7-8 (1:55-2:45; 3-3:50)

instructor: Professor Macdonald <>

office hours: TR 4 (10:40-11:30) or by appointment

office: Pugh 304

email: please use CANVAS (or for emergency

tel: 392-7083

Course Description

This is a visual culture course that focuses on animation in China. Animation in China begins in the 1920s, with existent animation dating from the 1930s, and the first feature length animated film produced under wartime occupation in 1941. Until the 1980s the Shanghai Animation Film Studio (SAFS) was the sole animation studio in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Animation was largely a non-commercial form supposedly aimed at children and most of the classics of animation from China were produced during the revolutionary period (1949-1976). However, SAFS productions are still referenced by contemporary animation, making this historic form a very important example of postmodernist cultural production “with Chinese characteristics.” It took academic film studies and mainland auteur filmmakers until the 1980s to discover genre and popular cinema. Ironically the modest media that make up the animation industry in China had always worked with traditional themes represented by the solid lines and bright colors of cel, stop-motion and papercut animation.

Course Objectives

To introduce students to animation in China as history and concept. This course aims to introduce students to the theoretical vocabulary of animation studies that overlaps with a range of fields within art history, film and media studies, and literary studies. Animation in China connects in surprising ways with global media culture. This course asks students to engage with visual culture through animated film. Watching film is also a type of reading, and since you are expected to produce well-reasoned and well-researched responses to the films shown in this class, reading animation also implies ways of writing.

The syllabus schedule indicates the required reading for each week. Detailed information is contained in the bibliography. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me.


Participation & Attendance: 10%

Pop Quizzes & worksheets: 10%

Response papers: 20% (1 + a short oral presentation to be handed in)

Short paper: 20% (5 pages)

Final project: 40% (10-12 pages, includes abstract and bibliography assignment)


Attendance: an absence is excused if documentation (nurse’s or doctor’s note) is provided). 1 unexcused absence = .12 deduction. However, absences inevitably impact the final grade.

Homework assignments must be handed in at the beginning of class. Late assignments will lose one mark per day (with regard to submission, a paper handed in at the end of class will be considered late). If you need to use a public printer, get there early!

Quizzes: No make-up quizzes will be given. No make-up worksheets will be handed out.

Policy on Electronic Devices: If we need to use the internet during class, I will definitely let you know. If you need to call or text someone, please do it before or after class. If you use a laptop or e-book, please turn off the wireless function. If you are using electronic devices to communicate or surf during class time, that class will be counted as an unexcused absence.

Writing format: double-spaced, with Times New Roman 12 pt. font size. Please no extra spaces between paragraphs.

A 4.0 93%+
A- 3.67 90-92%
B+ 3.33 87-89%
B 3.0 83-86%
B- 2.67 80-82%
C+ 2.33 77-79%
C 2.0 73-76%
C- 1.67 70-72%
D+ 1.33 67-68%
D 1.0 63-66%
D- .67 60-62
E 0 <60%

Also see:

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities:


Academic Honesty Guidelines: Please do not plagiarize. If you copy words from a book or site without citing the writer or site, that is plagiarizing. If you summarize or paraphrase without mentioning the writer or site, that is plagiarizing. Plagiarism means an immediate zero.



The schedule may change according to the needs of the class.

WEEK TUESDAY (1 class) THURSDAY (2 classes)
1 August 23:

Introduction to course

A discussion of key concepts

Popular Prints, Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes

Bo and Johnson 1992

Laing 2002

August 25 – key concepts (continued)

Readings: McLuhan 1964 (1994)

First film: “A Tale of the Fountain of the Peach Blossom Spring”

2 August 30:

The “place” of cartoons in film history.

Readings: LaMarre 2009,

Leslie 2002

September 1:

Caricature and Comedy in the Big City

Film: City Scenes (Dushi fengguang)

DVD 6080

Reading: Crespi (online)









September 6:

Where do Cartoons Come From? WWII Animation

(Birth of a Global Industry?)

Film(s): Disney war shorts

Readings: Lent & Xu 2002

Wu Cheng’en. 2012

September 8:

Film: China’s first feature length: Princess Iron Fan (Tieshan gongzhu)

DVD 6035  

4 September 13:

The Founding of a Studio and National Style(s)

Reading: Wu 2009

September 15:

Film: The Lost Magic of the Shanghai Art Studios

Response Assignment








September 20:

Is animation “ethnic”?


September 22:

Film(s):  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (DVD 4229), The Conceited General (Jiao’ao de jiangjun) (DVD 5399)  

Response 1 due






September 27:

Readings: Ehrlich and Jin, 2001, Quiquemelle 1991

September 29:

Selected SAFS Shorts

7 October 4:

Romancing the Peacock

Readings: Buchan 2011,

Mohamed & Nor 2015

October 6:

Film: Princess Peacock (Kongque gongzhu)


Short paper assignment


8 October 11:

Cartoons as ideological

Various strange American cartoons

Reading: Du 2016

October 13:


The Little Trumpet Boy (Xiaohao shou)

TBA: selected film and clips

Reading: Andrews and Shen 2010










October 18:

On “Chinese” animation

Readings: Chow 2000,

Farquhar 1993 and

we will be returning to Wu and Leslie as well


Short paper due


October 20:

Waterbrush animation

DVD 5399



10 October 25:

On the importance of adaptation

Reading :

Wells, Paul, 2007

October 27:

Film: Na Cha the Great

11 November 1:

The end of meishu

& a discussion of the director Wang Shuchen

Reading: Gu 1992 


November 3:


Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (Nezha nao hai)   

Final Assignment








November 8:

Jin Xi’s Saving Mother

November 10:

On the episode as a form in fiction and film stylization in late SAFS film

The Quay Bros. The Epic of Gilgamesh, or This Unnameable Little Broom

Final: Abstract and Bibliography

13 November 15:

Film: TBA

TV Nation

Some discussion of “post-meishu” animation

November 17:


Defining the franchise

New formats determined by the market





November 22: 

The franchise continues


Final paper due


November 24:







November 29:

Film(s): Commercial feature-length and independent animation in Hong Kong

December 1:

Commercial feature-length and independent animation in Hong Kong




December 6:

Animation in China goes online too

. . . (continued)


(The Filmography and Bibliography may be expanded!)



Chen Ming, A Tale of the Fountain of the Peach Blossom Spring (Taohua yuanji) (Huanqiu shuma, 2006).   

Disney, Walt, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney, 1939).

Jin Xi, Princess Peacock (Kongque gongzhu, SAFS, 1963)

—. Saving Mother (Xiyue qitong, SAFS, 1984)   

—. Ma Liang’s Magic Brush (Shenbi Ma Liang, SAFS, 1957)  

Quay Brothers, The. The Epic of Gilgamesh, or This Unnameable Little Broom (1985), in Phantom museums: short films of the Quay brothers (New York : Zeitgeist Films, 2007).

DVD 2367

Quiquemelle, Marie-Claire and Julien Gaurichon, The Lost Magic of the Shanghai Art Studios (Filmakers Library, Point du Jour International, 2005)

DVD 7048

Te Wei, The Conceited General (Jiao’ao de jiangjun) (SAFS, 1956)

DVD 5399

—. The Shepherd’s Flute (Mu Di) (SAFS, 1963)

DVD 5399

—. Where’s Mama? -or- Little Tadpoles Look for Mama (Xiao kedou zhao mama) (SAFS, 1960).

DVD 5401; DVD 5399 

Wan Guchan, The Fisherboy (Yutong) (SAFS, 1959).

—. Pigsy Eats Watermelon (Zhu Bajie chi xigua) (SAFS, 1958).  

Wan Laiming (et al.) Uproar in Heaven (Danao tiangong) (SAFS, 1961, 1964)

DVD 5401    

—. Princess Iron Fan (Tieshan gongzhu) (Zhongguo lianhe, 1941).

Wang Shuchen, Crossing Monkey Mountain (Guo Houshan) (SAFS, 1958)

DVD 5393

—. A New Story Along the Way (Lubian de xinshi) (SAFS,1964)

DVD 5393

—. Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (Nezha naohai) (SAFS, 1979)

DVD 5392  

—. Secrets of the Heavenly Book (Tianshu qitan) (SAFS, 1982)

DVD 5393    

—. The Little Trumpet Boy (Xiaohao shou) (SAFS, 1973).

DVD 5393

Zhao Chongbang, Pleasant Goat and Big Bad Wolf: The Big Adventure (Xi yangyang yu hui tailang zhi niuqi chongtian) (Shanghai dongfang chuanmei, 2009).

DVD 5386


Andrews, Julia F., and Kuiyi Shen. 2012. The art of modern China. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.


Book on reserve

N7345 .A527 2012

Bakhtin, M M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, trans. Michael Holquist. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Book on reserve


Berry, Chris. 1992. “ ‘Race’ [Minzu]): Chinese Film and the Politics of Nationalism.”

Cinema Journal 31: 45-58.

Online article

Bo Songnian, and David G. Johnson. 1992. Domesticated Deities and Auspicious Emblems: The Iconography of Everyday Life in Village China; Popular Prints and Papercuts from the Collection of Po Sung-Nien. Berkeley: Chinese Popular Culture Project, University of California. 

Book on reserve

NE1183.P6 1992  

Buchan, Suzanne. 2011. The Quay Brothers: into a metaphysical playroom. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Book on reserve

NC1766.G7 B763 2011

Burch, Noël. 1986. “Primitivism and the Avant-Gardes: A Dialectical Approach” in Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology, pp. 483- 506.

Book on reserve

PN1995.N34 1986

Cartmell, Deborah. 2007. “Adapting Children’s Literature,” in The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen, Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 167-180.

On ARES, ed. Stefan R. Landsberger


Chow, Rey. 2000. “Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem,” in Rey Chow (ed.) Modern Chinese Literary and Cultural Studies in the Age of Theory: Reimagining a Field. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 2000, 1-25.

DS775.2.M63 (also available as an ebook at Smathers).

Cohn, Neil. 2010. “Japanese Visual Language: The Structure of Manga,” in Toni Johnson-Woods (ed.), Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives. New York: Continuum, 187-203.


Crespi, John. “China’s Modern Sketch, the Golden Era of Cartoon Art, 1934-1937.”

Online at:

Du, Daisy Yan. 2016. The Dis/appearance of Animals in Animated Film during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1966-76, in positions: east asian cultures critique, vol. 24, no. 2 (May): 435-479.

Online article.

Ehrlich, David and Yianyi Jin. 2001. “Animation in China” in Animation in Asia and the Pacific, ed. John A. Lent, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 7-32.

Book on reserve

NC1765.A538 2001

Farquhar, Mary. 1993. “Monks and Monkey: a Study of National Style in Chinese Animation,” Animation Journal (Spring): 4-27.


Gu Zhizhong. 1992. Creation of the Gods. Beijing: New World Press, 1992.

Chapter 13 The Birth of Nezha; Chapter 13 Combat Between Two Faeries; Chapter 14 Reincarnation with Lotus Flowers, pp. 131-167.  


Klein, Norman M. 1993. Seven Minutes: The Life and Death of the American Animated Cartoon. London: Verso.

Book on reserve

NC1766.U5K54 1993

Laing, Ellen J. 2002. Art and Aesthetics in Chinese Popular Prints: Selection from the Muban Foundation Collection. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese studies, University of Michigan.

Lamarre, Thomas. 2009. The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Selection on ARES

Book on reserve

NC1766.J3L36 2009 

Lent, John and Xu Ying. 2003. “China’s animation beginnings: The roles of the Wan Brothers and others.” Asian Cinema vol. 14, no. 1: 56–69.

Online article

Leslie, Esther, 2002. Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde. London: Verso.

Selection on ARES

Book on reserve

TR897.5.L47 2002

McLuhan, Marshall. 1994. Reprint of 1964 edition, Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man, Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press, 3-21.

Mohamed, Fauzi Naeim and Nurul Lina Mohd Nor. 2015. “Puppet Animation Films and Gesture Aesthetics.” in Animation: an Interdisciplinary Journal, 10/2: 102-118.

Quiquemelle, Marie-Claire. 1991. “The Wan Brothers and Sixty Years of Animated Film in China,” in Perspectives on Chinese Cinema, Ed. Chris Berry, London: British Film Institute, 175-186. 


Wells, Paul. 2007. “Classic literature and animation: all adaptations are equal, but some are more equal than others,” in The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen, Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 199-211.


Wu Cheng’en. 2012. The Journey to the West: Vol. 3. Trans. Anthony C. Yu Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 118-163.

Wu, Weihua. 2009. “In Memory of Meishu Film: Catachresis and Metaphor in Theorizing Chinese Animation,”animation: an interdisciplinary journal, 4. 1 (March): 31-54.

Online article

Zhang Yingjin. 1997. “From ‘Minority Film’ To ‘Minority Discourse’: Questions of Nationhood and Ethnicity in Chinese Cinema,” Cinema Journal 36: 73-90.

Online article


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