PRINCESS IRON FAN (1941)
aka Tie shan gong zhu
Article 5193 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Wan Guchan and Wan Laiming
Featuring the voices of Wan Chaochen, Wan Guchan, Wan Laiming
What it is: Animated fantasy allegory
A monk and his three apprentices are on a quest, but their way is blocked by a mountain of fire. A nearby princess has an iron fan with which to quench the flames, and the monk sends his three apprentices (a monkey, a pig and a stuttering man) to get the fan. This may prove a difficult task.
There’s a lot of novelty value to this one; it was the first full-length animated feature from China, and it was made while the country was under occupation by the Japanese. Much of the animation was rotoscoped, which is very apparent in certain scenes. The characters are apparently well-known Chinese archetypes, with the monkey character having been especially popular; I suspect Asians and those steeped in Asian cultures will probably be the ones most likely to appreciate this one. I do find it interesting that the opening titles seem to want to distant this obvious fantasy from the fantasy genre by insisting it’s an allegory rather than a fantasy; I don’t think the former necessarily cancels out the latter. It does take a little while to adjust to the different animation style, and the humorous sections don’t seem to translate very well. At any rate, it makes for a novel viewing experience.