If you grew up watching Chinese animation, you probably got the feeling that animation was something only kids could enjoy. Even today, the offerings are fairly limited: The *shrill, *slapstick *antics that dominate shows like Boonie Bears (《熊出没》) and Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (《喜羊羊和灰太郎》) are aimed *squarely at children, leaving few options for cartoon-loving adults.
By and large, Chinese cartoonists have yet to come up with more mature work, as touching and inspiring as the films of Miyazaki Hayao. The 2015 animated film, Monkey King: Hero Is Back (《大圣归来》), was a step in the right direction. But this summer may mark a turning point. With the release of Big Fish and Begonia (《大鱼海棠》) on July 8, Chinese animators aim to get their art taken seriously.
“We hope this animated film will mirror every audience in its own way,” said Liang Xian, co-director of Big Fish.
The film follows a 16-year-old named Chun who tries to save the life of a human by protecting his soul. The soul takes the form of a tiny fish. And as Chun nurtures the fish, her love grows too.
Liang says that different people will see different themes in the story–about freedom and friendship, love and life. In fact, the story itself has evolved over its 12 years of production. Liang has had to reinterpret its meaning multiple times.
When he first got the idea for the project, Liang was just a 21-year-old dropout from Tsinghua University. He and a fellow Tsinghua student, Zhang Chun, made a flash animation that served as the basis for Big Fish, and they put it online in May 2004. It was *acclaimed both domestically and internationally for its marvelous scenes and its use of the Taoist classic A Happy Excursion (《逍遥游》). “At that time, the story to me was all about freedom, as I just embarked on the animation career that I had always dreamed of,” Liang said.
However, to turn a flash animation into a full-length film was an undertaking more difficult than Liang and Zhang expected. Before it hit the big screen, the directors faced a shortage of funds and a lack of talented animators.
As the production overcame these hurdles, the Big Fish story started to reflect the more complicated realities of life. Liang believes this complexity will ultimately give the film its long-lasting charm. “When you look back at Disney’s great animated films like Bambi (1942) and The Lion King (1994), you’ll find their themes and sentiments are never out-of-date,” Liang added.
制作过程中，这些困难一一攻克，《大鱼海棠》的故事逐渐反映出更加复杂的生活现实。梁旋相信这会给这部电影带来经久不衰的魅力。“当你回头看看迪士尼那些伟大的动画电影，比如《小鹿斑比》(1942) 和《狮子王》 (1994)，你会发现它们的主题和情感永不过时，”梁旋补充道。
Judging from Big Fish’s trailer, the film promises a *lush world full of creativity and beauty, as well as a plot with the ambition to convey profound themes. “But the question of whether the 12 years of slow-fire cooking has made sweet malt still awaits its answer, as audiences prepare to go watch the animated film,” commented Zu Jiyan of The Beijing Times.