2019 was a bumper year for Chinese animated movies. This year, animated blockbuster Ne Zha, with box office revenue of $729 million, beat Avengers: Endgame and Wandering Earth and became the second-highest grossing film in China, closely following the action blockbuster Wolf Warrior II, marking an impressive milestone for the country’s animation industry. Today, we recommend a few of the highest-rated Chinese animated films to watch.
Legend of Deification/Jiang Ziya 姜子牙 (2020)
Legend of Deification (aka Jiang Ziya) is the sequel to China’s biggest film release of 2019 — Ne Zha. It is also adapted from the well-known Chinese folk legend Fengshen Yanyi, featuring the popular mythological figure Jiang Ziya. The 3D animated film Jiang Ziya was expected to be released during China’s Spring Festival, however, all new Chinese releases were cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The new release date in 2020 is not confirmed yet. We expect it to be another success following Ne Zha.
Ne Zha 哪吒之魔童降世 (2019)
Ne Zha is China’s first 3D-animated film released in IMAX format. Released in July 2019, the animation fantasy adventure film grossed over $729 million, and it is undoubtedly one of the largest commercial successes in the history of animation and Chinese cinema, setting numerous box office records. It was the first animated film from China to be selected as the Chinese entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards, but it was not nominated. Ne Zha, a character originally from Chinese mythology, has appeared in numerous TV and film production such as Chinese animation series Legend of Nezha and Journey to the West. In this movie, Ne Zha was born with the spirit of the Demon Pearl that was prophesied to bring destruction to humanity. Due to his supernatural powers and mischievousness, Ne Zha is hated and feared by his villagers, and he must fight against their prejudice and change his own fate.
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The Legend of Hei 罗小黑战记 (2019)
The Legend of Luo Xiaohei was originally an online cartoon series produced by independent animation producer MTJJ and its studio in 2011. Then in September 2019, the feature-length 2D animation film The Legend of Hei was released, serving as a prequel to the cartoon series. Luo Xiaohei, a demon in the form of a small black cat, starts his wandering journey after his home was destroyed, then he meets other demons and humans and learns about keeping the balance between human civilization and the natural world. The Legend of Hei captured millions of viewers and earned over $44 million at the Chinese box office. It is considered as a milestone for China’s 2D animation films.
White Snake 白蛇: 缘起 (2019)
White Snake was released in January 2019, raking over $60 million in China. It was directed by Amp Wong and Zhao Ji, produced by Light Chaser Animation, and distributed in North America by GKIDS Films. This Chinese animation fantasy film is inspired by The Legend of the White Snake, a famous Chinese romance folk tale, and serves as a prequel to the original story, set 500 years before the main story. The film introduces a new character, snake-catcher A Xuan, who is the previous reincarnation of the White Snake’s lover Xu Xian. It tells the love story between A Xuan and White Snake, who lost her memory. The film has been praised for its visuals and animation and was nominated in the Best Animation category at the 32nd Golden Rooster Awards and won the Best Adapted Animation Film Award at the 3rd “Golden Screen Awards” in 2019.
Monkey King: Hero Is Back 西游记之大圣归来 (2015)
Monkey King, known as Sun Wukong, is a legendary and beloved figure best known as one of the main characters in the famous novel Journey to the West and has appeared in many film adaptations. The 2015 animation film Monkey King: Hero is Back was created over a period of eight years with the support of crowdfunding, and was a great success at the box office, garnering a record-breaking $136 million that year. The film focuses on the moment when Monkey King has just been released from the mountain after 500 years of imprisonment, but he lost all his magic powers. During the struggle to save a village, he finally regains his powers and defeats the monsters.