A New Milestone for Chinese Feature Animation: ‘Big Fish & Begonia’ Arrives in North America

Twelve years in the making, epic fantasy adventure written, produced and directed by animators Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang is hailed as the forefront of the burgeoning Chinese animation industry.

Big Fish & Begonia, the epic fantasy adventure written, produced and directed by animators Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang, entwines new storytelling, mythical legends and lyrical characters from beloved Chinese literary classics. Already a great box office success overseas, the 2D/3D hybrid anime feature is one of China’s foremost animated feature films, and animation enthusiasts, artists and critics alike have heralded the movie’s artistic achievement as the forefront of the burgeoning Chinese animation industry.

The film’s story — inspired by a myth from the ancient Chinese Daoist classic Zhuangzi that also incorporates elements from notable Chinese classics such as The Classic of Mountains and In Search of the Supernatural — is a tale of love and sacrifice:

There is a mystical race of beings that control the tide and the changing of the seasons. But one of these beings, a young girl named Chun, wants to experience the human world, not simply observe it. When she turns sixteen, Chun is allowed to transform into a dolphin and explore the human world. However, she soon learns this world is a dangerous place. Chun is nearly killed in a vortex, but saved by a human boy at the cost of his own life. Moved by his kindness and courage, she decides to give the boy life again, but this power comes at a price. Chun will have to face adventure and sacrifice in order to protect the boy’s soul until it is ready to return to the human world.

Twelve years in the making, Big Fish & Begonia premiered in competition at the 2017 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and went on to screen at the BFI London Film Festival, the inaugural ANIMATION IS FILM Festival, and the New York International Children’s Film Festival. The PG-13 rated film arrives in North American theaters in both Mandarin with subtitles and English-language dub versions on April 6, courtesy of Shout! Studios and Funimation, to be followed by a U.K. release from Manga Entertainment on April 18.

The project grew out of a seven-minute Flash animation the duo produced in 2004. Very well-received when it debuted online in China, the short led Liang and Zhang to form their own production company in 2005 with the aim of developing the property into a feature-length animated movie. Liang completed the scripted in 2009, but the initial funding quickly ran out and, in order to keep things afloat, he had to take on other projects.

The feature film project Big Fish & Begonia was filed away for several years until Liang posted on Weibo (China’s largest Twitter-like service) in 2013, asking for help in funding the movie and to further spread the word about Big Fish & Begonia. The two filmmakers launched a crowd-funding campaign in China, and within a month they successfully pulled in capital support from 4,000 online supporters and caught the attention of Beijing Enlight Media, which financed the production.

Leading up to the film’s U.S. release, AWN had a chance to ask the filmmakers about the making of this landmark project, including acquiring funding for the film, designing the fantastical characters and backgrounds, and the evolution of Chinese animation. Read the full Q&A on Animation World Network.


–This is original content by Animation World Network and has been republished with permission.