Wan Lai-Ming and his brothers were China's pioneers in animation, but their work was suppressed after the Cultural Revolution of 1966. This ambitious animated feature is adapted from the first seven chapters of the 16th century novel Journey to the West (best known here in Arthur Waley's translation as Monkey), and it celebrates the mischievous Monkey King's challenge to the celestial autocracy. Wan makes no real effort to produce 'charming' or sympathetic characters, and so his main appeal is to those familiar with the book - which means everyone in China. His figure animation is like simplified Disney without the sentimentality, but his backgrounds derive rather beautifully from traditional Chinese painting.
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