Next Gen

I don’t just love China and culture. I like robots and movies too, so I’ll always take the opportunity to look at any area where these loves collide.

“Next Gen” is an animated film currently available on Netflix, set in a futuristic society in which advanced robots look after every stage of human existence, from home appliances, to drones, doors, even education. Justin Pin, the man-bunned CEO of IQ Robotics is adored like a superstar, and his Q-Bots are the must-have personal assistants. Angry, disillusioned high school student Mai Su (Charleyne Yi), bullied at school and trying to cope with her father’s abandonment, made worse by her robot-obsessed mother Molly (Constance Wu), ends up dragged along to a product launch for the latest bot. Getting lost in the labs, she accidentally activates a prototype robot, codenamed “77”, who becomes attached to her, and escapes the lab to find her. The two begin an unlikely friendship, whilst the robot’s original creator finds more sinister things afoot than a missing robot.


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Big Fish and Small Gods

With the release of Big Fish & Begonia, Xueting Christine Ni looks at China’s diverse pantheon that influenced the animation… As a public speaker who saw the oncoming wave of Chinese animation in the early 2000s, and who spent the last decade promoting these to West, it was my absolute joy to introduce Big Fish & Begonia this spring to the general public at various venues in London for the cinema release. Summer brings the home media release, set for the 9th of July, which coincides with the UK publication of my new book From Kuan Yin to Chairman Mao: An Essential Guide to Chinese Deities. Many of the beings I have written about are also featured in this 21st-century animation, and one of the reasons I have written the book is to demonstrate the contemporary relevance of these deities. In this article, I take a look at their origins and their reinterpretation in the film. China has a long tradition of taking inspiration from its Shen Hua (mythology) for the creation its Dong Hua (animation), from classics such as the 1964 Uproar in Heaven and Nezha Conquers the Dragon King (1979), to The Calabash Brothers (1986) and recent renditions of Investiture of the Gods. Certain deities, such as ones that have evolved with urban entertainment, tended to be focused on. Big Fish & Begonia takes a fresh angle on the subject. The story is set in the Undersea, the world of Chun, heroine of the story. Based on the concept Gui Xu from the 4th to 5thcentury BCE Daoist text Lie Zi, Undersea is the final Continue Reading →


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Bao: A Review

After the delays due to the World Cup, I am very happy to see “Incredibles 2” released at last. The major reason for my anticipation for seeing this film in the cinema, is the short preceding the main feature, “Bao”, the first Pixar production with a female director, and one of Chinese heritage, no less. Needless to say, my expectations were high, and this adorable work has met them.


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A Brief History of Dong Hua: Taster

It all began in 1922. Between 1922 and 45 was a period when China discovered and explored animation for itself. The main force behind early Chinese animation were three classically trained art students from Shanghai, the Wan brothers, who taught themselves the techniques of animation from studying 20s American cartoons such as Out of the Ink Well, Popeye and Betty Boop. The very first Dong Hua movie, “Uproar In the Studio”, was born in 1926 in a 7 square metre room in Zha Bei district of Shanghai.


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Have a Nice Day

When I first heard about this Chinese animation, it was in the context of bankable dissent, so I was pre-disposed to dismissing this work, but when I actually had a chance to see some of the footage, I was thoroughly impressed, and subsequently, very happy to hear it was being screened at the Genesis.


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On Chinese Arts in Western Media

Recently numerous friends on social media have pointed out to me the shockingly underinformed or dubious ways in which the Chinese arts have been represented in the Western media. I have been impressed by your astuteness and I thank you for your kindness.


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5 CNY Things To Do Outside Chinatown

This week is Spring Festival 2015. In London’s Chinatown, festive lanterns shine over frantic shoppers rushing about to prepare for the biggest annual feast and celebration, there will be lion dances in Gerrard Street and music performances in Trafalgar Square. Is the thought of pushing through the crowds again making your head spin? Are you an adventurous Sinophile wandering what else there is beyond the bounds of Soho? Here are some things you can enjoy in London outside Chinatown.


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An Evening of Independent Chinese Animation

This year’s Chinese Visual Festival is collaborating with the Chinese Independent Film Festival to bring to the UK their 10th anniversary animation selection, and I went to see it at King’s College in the middle of May.


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