ABSTRACT

The chapter examines the artistic, intellectual, and ideological backbone of the puppet film Wanderings of Sanmao (1958), directed by Zhang Chaoqun, created in close cooperation with the famous manhua artist Zhang Leping, and adapted from one of his comics. Maintaining the historicized approach towards film analysis, the author firstly acknowledges changeable socio-political conditions prevailing in the times when the comic book series Sanmao was created (1930s–1940s). Further on, the discussion explores significant stylistic conventions (fictional realism, symbolic reservoir of the 1920s–1930s manhua) which relate this film to the pre-1949 Shanghai visual and audiovisual culture traditions. Applying transcultural perspective in studying the concerns of manhua and animation kinship enables following the dynamics of artistic and intellectual radicalization that led the manhua artists (future cadres of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio) to join the ranks of the war-time National Salvation Cartoon Propaganda Corps. Ideological analysis of the animated Wanderings of Sanmao reveals the predominance of the calls related to the recent, guerilla involvement of the artists, rather than the potency to directly address the demands of the late 1950s’ reality. The puppet film genre’s inclination to nostalgia and lyricism is also discussed in the light of Zhang Chaoqun and his mentor Jin Xi’s artistic convictions.