China's Winter Olympic animated movie 'a gift to the world'

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 18, 2022
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A new all-star animated anthology feature film will hit Chinese screens on Feb. 19. In a series of exclusive interviews with, its creators explained that they wanted to present the movie to the world as a gift and vehicle to showcase Chinese culture. 

A mother and her two daughters pose for a photo in front of Olympic mascot Bing Dwen Dwen at the premiere of "Me and My Winter Games" in Beijing, Feb. 16, 2022. [Photo courtesy of Wonder Cat Animation]

"Me and My Winter Games," directed by Lin Yongchang, Li Haoling, Zhuang Hao and Qu Qiang, is an episodic anthology that tells inspirational stories featuring nearly 50 of China's most beloved animated characters and the official Beijing 2022 mascots — Bing Dwen Dwen, a cheerful cartoon panda, and Shuey Rhon Rhon, an anthropomorphized Chinese lantern — in four chapters. 

"This is a big gift to the audience across China and all over the world," said Wang Yuren, the movie's chief producer. "I'm excited and grateful for the efforts made by more than 1,300 Chinese animators over the past two years. I hope this film can convey the ideas of China's young generation and China's cultural confidence to the world."

Wang anticipated the potential popularity of the Olympic mascots early on, which was borne out by the recent frenzy over Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon merchandise. "When the designs were unveiled, they were very cute," he said. "So in 2019, we approached the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for licensing rights."

Members of the creative team behind "Me and My Winter Games" and guests pose on stage at the film's premiere in Beijing, Feb. 16, 2022. [Photo courtesy of Wonder Cat Animation]

A film based on Olympic mascots has never been made before. After careful consideration, the IOC eventually granted permission and gave its blessing for the project. "It's a sort of recognition for Beijing, the dual-Olympic city," Wang said.

After getting the go-ahead, Wang and his team started contacting Chinese animation studios, animators, producers and investors. "We carefully chose the most popular and iconic characters — those that have inspired generations of Chinese people," Wang said.

Shanghai Animation Film Studio, Fantawild Animation, Bilibili and several other studios joined hands to assemble a dream team of popular characters from blockbuster franchises such as "The Monkey King," "Calabash Brothers," "Boonie Squad" and "Non-Human." With Wonder Cat Animation leading the project, the film features various styles of animation including 2D animation, CGI, puppetry and stop-motion.

Initial preparations took the whole of 2020 to complete, followed by six months confirming the content and production crews. Actual production then ran from June until December last year. "It was very challenging for us to make the film in such a short time," Wang said.

A still image from the Boonie Squad chapter of "Me and My Winter Games." [Photo courtesy of Fantawild Animation]

Lin Yongchang directed the chapter starring younger versions of the iconic bear siblings Briar and Bramble and their human friend Vick from the popular "Boonie Squad" animated show. He explained that everyone was focused on creating a story that could both entertain audiences and pay tribute to the Olympics. 

"After we got the project, we did a lot of research into winter sports so that we could best show them on the big screen," Lin told "We're excited our characters get to interact with the Olympic mascots in the film, and we integrated lots of winter sports into the plot." He added that they also took inspiration for their new character Miss Snow from top skiers such as Gu Ailing.

A still image from the Monkey King chapter of "Me and My Winter Games." [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Animation Film Studio]

In another chapter, the usually slim and majestic-looking "Monkey King" Sun Wukong puts on weight after eating too much and not exercising. However, he still manages to team up with the modern world character Tutu to race alongside other animated stars such as Nezha and the Calabash Brothers in a winter sports event. 

"We wanted to surprise the audience with a fat Monkey King, and to also encourage them to exercise and keep fit," said Qu Qiang, one of the movie's directors. The new design was recognized by artists from the Shanghai Animation Film Studio who made the original Monkey King a childhood favorite for millions of Chinese.

"Ever since I was young, Sun Wukong has been my hero," Qu said. "All these years later, I feel honored to pay tribute to my predecessors through this Olympic project." It's Qu's hope that the film can promote the Olympic spirit among Chinese people, and present the uniqueness of Chinese culture to the world.

A still image from the puppetry chapter of "Me and My Winter Games." [Photo courtesy of Big Puppet Original]

One chapter of the film stands out for its particularly Chinese style: the puppetry stop-motion animation section, directed by Zhuang Hao. 

"Very few teams can make such animation in China, even in the world; you can count them on just one hand," said Xu Zheng, producer of the chapter and the founder of Big Puppet Original. He explained that 23 animators created 54 puppets for the film, and despite shooting over 20 minutes of material, only half was used in the finished version.

Xu said Chinese audiences have missed out on this genre of animation for nearly two decades on the big screen. Although they mostly used traditional techniques, they also incorporated some new technologies including 3D printing. "We'll continue to promote this genre in the future," Xu said.

A still image from the Non-Human chapter of "Me and My Winter Games." [Photo courtesy of Bilibili]

Meanwhile, another chapter featuring characters from the popular online animated series "Non-Human" on Bilibili looks set to appeal to Chinese youngsters. The show's magical creatures — including the nine-tailed fox, dragon and Nezha — set off on a new adventure with the Olympic mascots.

"We've seen the Winter Olympics get deeper inside Chinese people's hearts, while we thought we can also incorporate many details from everyday Beijing life into the animation," producer Wang Yuren explained. "We hope to better integrate winter sports with Chinese culture, and that the film will allow people around the world to fall in love with Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon, love Chinese animation, and support the Winter Olympics."

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