The story was liberally adapted from a short sequence in the popular Chinese folk tale Journey to the West. Princess Iron Fan is a main character. Specifically, the film focused on the duel between the Monkey King and a vengeful princess, whose fan is desperately needed to quench the flames that surround a peasant village.
Tripitaka, Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy cross approach the Mountain of Flames in almost unbearable heat.
Monkey goes into the heart of the volcano, but local fire-demons force him to retreat. He decides to borrow a famous magical fan, whose sweeps can summon forth incredible winds and call down massive rainstorms.
But the spirit princess who owns the fan refuses to cooperate, since Monkey is responsible for the death of her son. She uses the fan to blow him away. After obtaining a magic pearl that negates the fan’s effects, Monkey returns, transforming into an insect and landing into the Princess’s tea…
China’s first feature-length cartoon, the third in the world, exerted an incredible influence on the Asian animation market.
Made in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation, it established many precedents for the Chinese animation industry, including the use of songs and bouncing-ball subtitles, and the popularity of Journey to the West as a source. The film makes heavy use of rotoscoping in an attempt to hide inexpert animation.
This process of drawing over live-action footage of real human actors serves to make the humans’ movements almost impossibly fluent and accomplished, while the non-human cast are noticeably less well-realised. It also inspired the Japanese to make their own animated feature, indirectly pollinating the early anime industry.
PRINCESS IRON FAN was cited as a major influence on Japan’s greatest manga artist Osamu Tezuka, who entered the field after seeing it as a boy in 1943.
Considering the resources available to the Wans at the time, the film is a stunning achievement containing some genuine innovations, such as the sparkling dress worn by one of Buffalo’s wives.
Japanese propagandists hastily commissioned MOMOTARO’S SEA EAGLES (1943) and MOMOTARO’S DIVINE SEA WARRIORS (1945) in an attempt to prove that Japan, too, could produce animation to a Chinese scale and standard.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival