Here’s a game we can play: let’s put our heads together and try to think of an animated film made in Hong Kong. And no, let’s try to think of one besides McDull. It’s hard, isn’t it?
Albeit a niche branch of entertainment in the 852, our city still boasts decades of history in animation production. From the internationally-acclaimed McDull film series to the animated adaptation of Legend Of Condor Hero by renowned Chinese wuxia novelist Jin Yong, we’ve rounded up the top six local animated films that have left an indelible impression on different generations of Hongkongers.
Since its first appearance in a comic strip co-created by Alice Mak and her husband Brian Tse in the 1980s, McDull has become the de facto ambassador of the local animation industry. Leading a life in Hong Kong with his mother Mrs Mak, the adorable swine (and we say that with endearment) is not particularly smart, but has the heart of a lion. His persistence and immense strength in the face of adversity embodies the spirit of Hong Kong and its people.
Featured in seven animated films including My Life As McDull (2001) and McDull: Rise of the Rice Cooker (2016), McDull tackles serious social issues, such as poverty and the brutal, ideal-crushing realities of adult life. They resonate with Hongkongers and it’s one of the many merits why it has become a milestone in the local animation industry. You can now snap a pic with the Statue of McDull on the newly-renovated Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Originally a famous and much-adored Hong Kong manhua (Chinese comic book) created by Alfonso Wong in 1962, Old Master Q was transformed into a series of Cantonese and Mandarin cartoon animations as far back as 1965. Centred around humour, the animations follow the quick-witted Old Master Q and his outlandish acquaintances, Big Potato and Mr Chin, as they travel through different social statuses, professions, and time periods. Colour Old Master Q (1980), for instance, sees them become apprentices to a kung fu master, where they unwittingly get entangled in a robber case.
Though infused with whimsical and offbeat humour, Old Master Q touches upon themes ranging from the social transformation of Hong Kong from the 1960s to the 1980s and pop culture to social issues such as poverty and class divisions. The titled protagonist is constantly torn between Chinese and Western cultural influences and is notorious for despising people who often switch between Chinese and English in their speech. Old Master Q is an absolute classic in the local comic and animation scene.
The Legend of Condor Hero is a TV anime adaptation of The Return of the Condor Heroes, a wuxia novel by renowned novelist Jin Yong. Consisting of three seasons and a total of 78 episodes, the series was co-produced by Japanese Nippon Animation and Jade Animation, TVB’s own animation studio.
Set in the 13th century at the time of the Mongol invasion of China, the story revolves around the young martial arts fighter Yang Guo as he goes through trials and tribulations to search for his love (who is also his martial arts master) Xiaolongnu in war-torn China. Despite much of the plot being abridged to fit into the 30-minute episodes blocks, all three seasons are considered canonical adaptation to its originals, with exhilarating wuxia fight scenes and an ace soundtrack.
A hand-drawn two-dimensional TV anime, The Primitives: Bongo and Grunge was first aired in 2007. Comprised of 52 episodes with each one lasting for only two minutes, it’s a parody of two monkeys—Bongo and Grunge—and their daily lives in the desolate jungle. Although lacking dialogue, infinite jest ensues whenever the two monkeys explore the freaky objects from the human world, which come floating to their island’s beach.
The animation serves as gaiety leisure for Hongkongers to temporarily break away from their demanding lives and embark on an adventure alongside the characters. In fact, the animation was so well-loved that after the airing of it, the production team followed up by launching a series of four case comics centred around the daily livelihood of Bongo and Grunge.
Created by the Postgal Workshop, Din Dong is a Hong Kong-based cartoon stray cat. He first appeared in the comic column published in local lifestyle magazine Touch, and was then developed into various multimedia creation covering animation. Din Dong is a silly and joyful cat who teems with dreams and positivity. His favourite pastime includes collecting recyclables and making use of them.
Created at the time of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the character was dedicated to reminding readers that happiness is not all about money and materialism. Since 2010, five cartoon segments, each lasts around one minute, have been released. With renowned voice actor Lam Pou Chuen (as Din Dong) at the helm, the animation series is recognised internationally—it’s even featured in the 34th Hong Kong International Film Festival and broadcasted in Nippon Television Network Corporation.
A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation is one of the very first Hong Kong animations that incorporated computer CGI. The animated film is loosely based on a short story, titled Nie Xiaoqian, from the ancient Chinese literary work Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by author Pu Songling. It’s about a young man falling in love with a ghost and he must avoid a variety of ghostbusters who have set out to eliminate her. Directed by Chinese cinephile Tsui Hark, it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1997 and is regarded as a considerable accomplishment with animation that recalls abundant Chinese and Japanese elements.