1958 was a very important year in anime history. Animation studio Toei Doga released Japan’s very first color anime theatrical feature HAKUJADEN 白蛇伝 (LEGEND OF THE WHITE SERPENT) (PANDA AND THE MAGIC SERPENT). This would be Toei Doga’s first attempt to enter a world animation market dominated by Disney. At that time, animators to be, learned the animation trade in other countries. It was a lengthy two year process to develop the equipment for shooting an anime film since none existed in Japan. I think Toei Doga did a stellar job their first time around.
Based on a Chinese folklore story, Hakujaden, tells the romantic tale of a young boy Xu-Xian and a beautiful girl Bai-Niang. Years ago when he was a child, Xu-Xian is forced to give up his pet white snake. The snake is caught up in a huge storm, but is magically turned into the young girl Bai-Niang. Years later Xu-Xian meets Bai-Niang and falls in love with her. Concerned that Bai-Ning may be evil, a monk/wizard, Fa-Hai, has Xu-Xian arrested and sent away to keep him safe from what he thinks may harm him. With the help of Xu-Xian’s panda friends, Panda and Mimyi and Bai-Niang’s friend Shao-Chan (who is actually a fish), the two lovers hope to be reunited.
Hakujaden highlights the beauty and atmosphere of China and it’s culture. The backgrounds in this film are softly hand painted showing off colorful flowers, waterfalls, and wildlife. The background music has that traditional Chinese sound similar to most Hong Kong period films like, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA and THE SWORDSMAN.