“Journey to the West is a wonderful children’s story, but the world often misunderstands it as a fantasy novel. This film was made for the purpose of training the hearts and minds of children. The story is pure, untainted by fantasy. Fiery Mountain blocking the path of Tang Seng’s company is a metaphor for the difficulties in life. In order to overcome them, one must keep faith. Everybody must work together in order to obtain the palm leaf fan and put out the flames.”
With those bold words China’s first feature length animated film begins. The story is about the four “people” in the image above and their attempts to get their hands on a scripture that will help the people. The movie begins with their arrival at Fiery Mountain, which is filled with fires they cannot pass. That’s not to say they don’t try. The monkey who can fly very fast makes an attempt, but finds that he can barely keep ahead of them without getting burned.
To get rid of the fire they are told to seek out the titular princess and her iron fan that can put out the flames. What follows is a series of deceitful actions by the monkey and pig, each acting on their own. Ultimately, the only way they can get what they need is to stand together with each other and the people. Once they do that everything falls into place and they are able to obtain the fan. With the fan they are able to blow away the flames and get the scripture.
What I found most interesting about this film was the heavy use of shapeshifting. The monkey takes on the form of a ladybug to get inside the princess and beat her from the inside. The pig takes on the form of a frog and the princess’ husband to obtain the fan and also to have a little fun with her. Her actual husband takes on the form of the monkey. The husband is really a giant bull and not the humanoid we have seen. The husband’s girlfriend is really some sort of a fox, but disguises herself as woman. I have included some pictures below.
The film is important historically, but otherwise it’s just worth a look.
The monkey taking on the form of a ladybug
The girlfriend becoming a woman.
The pig becoming a frog.