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Chinese animation, also known as donghua from the Mandarin Chinese word for animationnote , is narrowly defined as animation from China, but can also be applied to more general Chinese-language animation regardless of nationality.

Much like how Chinese manhua predates the development of Japanese manga, Chinese animation or donghua also has an earlier history than Japanese anime. The first Chinese animations were created by the hugely influential Wan brothers in the early 20th century, whose feature-length animation film Princess Iron Fan became the first animated feature-length film in Asia. It was a huge influence not only on the Chinese animation industry but also the Japanese one. It triggered Japan's animation development (including, ironically, Imperial Japanese propaganda such as Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors) and inspiring Osamu Tezuka and the generations of Manga and Anime after him.

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The Chinese animation industry was by far the most advanced in design, techniques, and storytelling among Asian countries up until the late 1960s. Civil strife in the mid-20th century took a toll on Chinese-language animation. Despite this, multiple classical Chinese animated works emerged even under strict Communist rule such as the traditional Chinese art-inspired works of Shanghai Animation Film Studio like Havoc in Heaven, an adaptation of a story in Journey to the West. These were yet again hugely influential within China.

Famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is an admirer of traditional Chinese paintings and the early work of Shanghai Animation Film Studio, including Havoc in Heaven and Little Tadpoles Look for Mama. He visited China and the studio in 1984 to discuss how it operated and how much their animators were paid. He founded the iconic Studio Ghibli the following year. Throughout the years, many in China invited Miyazaki to deliver classes at the studio, but he always refused, saying “I don’t have anything to teach, you have the best studio in Shanghai. It is I that have to learn from the Shanghai studio.”

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Western animation in the 1920s to early 1940s, predominantly Disney and Fleischer, were the earliest influences on Chinese animation. Eastern European animation became the strongest influence on Chinese animation after the Communist Revolution in 1949 which resulted in Chinese animation becoming more moralistic, angsty, and experimental. This was until Japan began exporting anime products to China starting from the 1980s. There has been some discontent in the Turn of the Millennium and The New '10s concerning the lack of any inspirational development in the Chinese media. A generation of teenagers who grew up under imported anime was unhappy that most Chinese animation was simply for children and not for them. The rise of the internet created a strong desire to lead Chinese animation into a new age, with new Japanese animation inspired Chinese animation coming into the scene in the mid-2010s.

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The influences of Western animation, Eastern European animation, and Japanese animation combined with China's own native animation designs have resulted in Chinese animation utilising a very broad range of art styles and techniques despite the industry being fairly small.

Note: For the ease of categorization, Hong Kong animation may also be included on this index due to its relatively small industry. While Taiwan is technically part of China, it is politically and economically self-determining and thus runs a significant, separate animation industry; a list of Taiwanese titles may be seen in Asian Animation.

Chinese Animation Tropes

  • Animation Age Ghetto: Due to the influence of the American animation industry, most Chinese people think animation is for children. However, a lot of Chinese animation aimed at kids would still be considered "inappropriate" or unintentionally terrifying in the US because of Values Dissonance and the lingering influence of Darker and Edgier Soviet animation. The popularity of Japanese animation among Chinese audiences has helped chip away at this perception that all animation is for children.
  • Animesque: Newer Chinese animation tends to draw a lot of influence from anime. This is definitely not the case with older Chinese animation as it was a much larger influence on Japanese animation than the other way around.
  • Bishōnen: Pretty boys in Chinese animation are ubiquitous and they tend to be very pretty. They appear at a higher frequency than even Japanese animation because a large proportion of Chinese animation is in the Yaoi Genre.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Averted. There are many donghua which are action-packed and Animesque, but unlike their anime counterparts, most characters never call out their attacks. China is a major producer of martial arts cinema and Chinese audiences have high expectations when it comes to intricately choreographed fight scenes. Calling out attacks in animated titles just seems stupid and obnoxious since they do not see it in live action Chinese martial arts movies.
  • Disneyesque: Early Chinese animation was heavily reminiscent of old Disney works and Disney was the largest influence on the industry before its influence was supplanted by Soviet animation, and later anime. The Disney style is still quite evident in the Chinese 3D animation industry as it takes inspiration from Disney's own 3D titles, as well as Pixar and DreamWorks. DreamWorks Kung Fu Panda was a massive hit among Chinese audiences and was pivotal in encouraging Chinese studios to make their own 3D animated films about Chinese culture. Also, Disney themselves would eventually partner up with Chinese animation studios to enter the Chinese animation market, beginning with Lilo & Stitch spin-off series Stitch & Ai.
  • No Export for You: A lot of older Chinese animation was made for Chinese audiences only. They are impossible to find overseas despite being regarded as masterpieces and highly valued by animation critics. This is particularly true for titles that utilised the unique Chinese ink wash animation style which faded out of popularity due to its complexity and high production costs. Most new Chinese animated series are released online so they are easier to distribute to non-Chinese audiences.


Shorts

  • Miss Daizi
  • Uproar in the Studio (大闹画室) - China's first animated short film.

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