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Cartoons Turn to Traditional Arts for Inspiration

A new cartoon series produced by China Central Television (CCTV) borrows traditional Chinese storytelling such as paper-cutting and shadow puppets, but uses computer software to animate the stories.

The 12-episode, 120-minute cartoon series, uses digital Flash media, to bring the old art form to the broadcast media. Paper-cutting and shadow puppetry are traditional Chinese folk arts that have a history of more than 1,000 years.

The series will be aired from October16 to 28 on CCTV's third channel, said Zhang Liang, a director of cartoons with the TV station.

In the past, artists would fold and cut amusing and intricate figures from a piece of paper to depict landscapes, flowers, birds, animals and human figures.

Shadow puppet masters would use two dimensional painted leather figures to cast shadows a white cloth. The masters would manipulate the puppets which were characters in their stories.

All the new computerized programs are based on classic works from comic dialogue masters such as Hou Baolin, and comic skit players like Zhao Benshan and Chen Peisi.

"Indigenous traditional culture has not been well explored by Chinese cartoon makers," said Xu Pengfei, director of the cartoon art committee of the China Artists Association.

China's first cartoons were produced in 1926. Its cartoon industry boomed between 1950s and 1970s, but audiences dwindled in the late 1970s, when an increasing number of foreign cartoons began to be broadcast in China.

In the past few years, China's cartoon industry has been seeking a revival with the support of government funding and tax breaks. In 2005, China's cartoon industry was worth 60 billion yuan (US$7.5 billion).
(Chinanews October 16, 2006)

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