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As many of the anime fans know, Japanese movie studio, Toei, revolutionized animation with its numerous excellent animation movies. One of the first full-length color animation from Toei is "Hakuja-den," an excellent movie from 1958. Even though some of the scenes look primitive when compared to much later Japanese animations like "Akira" or "Cowboy Beebop," almost everything in the movie is superbly done. The story of the movie was a rather sentimental and highly romanticized but good adaptation of a Chinese folklore. (This folklore was used by classical Beijing opera dramatists.) The scenes were superbly drawn with tremendous care. The artists behind this movie created excellent animal characters like Panda, Mimi and White pig. (These are obviously influenced by excellent Disney animal characters.) The music was superbly composed by Chuji Kinoshita (brother of the famed Japanese movie director Keisuke Kinoshita). Kinoshita superbly weaved actual Chinese melodies--similar to the ones used by Puccini in his opera Turandot--into a symphonic movie music. An excellent combination of music, story and animation. These are what Toei producers learned from the Disney studio. Toei producers from the 1950's wanted to outdo Disney with their "Hakuja-den."
There were some obvious inaccuracies in the movie. Even though the lead male character, Shu-sheng, and lead female character, Bai-nyang, are wearing clothing similar to those from Tang dynasty era (7th to 10th century), many of the other character are wearing clothing and head gears which weren't worn until Ching dynasty era (17th to early 20th century).
Also, the prints, on which the VHS and DVD versions of this movie were made, were not in a very good condition. Even on the VHS and DVD versions of the movie, I could see huge number of scratches. (I wonder why the producers of the VHS and DVD did not clean-up the scratches with modern digital technology. They could have easily done that. Are they too cheap to do that?)
In spite of these shortcomings, this is a superb animation movie. Kudos to the producers of this movie. I highly recommend every fan of animation to see this movie. If you are too poor to rent this movie, in many parts of the United States this movie is available as a $1 DVD "Panda and the White Serpent" at the local WalMart.
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