White Snake (2019)
Director: Amp Wong & Ji Zhao
Voice cast: Xiaoxi Tang, Tianxing Yang, Zhe Zhang
White Snake is a 2019 Chinese fantasy animated film about a thousand year old white snake spirit who loses her memory and falls in love with a boy from a snake-catcher village.
White Snake is the first made in China animated film by Warner Bros. in collaboration with Beijing animation studio Light Chaser. It retells the story of the Legend of the White Snake, one of the most popular stories that have been adapted into many forms of art and entertainment from TV series to movies to opera, so on so forth. What makes White Snake stand out is that it is somewhat of an origin story for the White Snake spirit and how her love story came to be.
In fact, the story starts off with the White Snake spirit called Blanca sent from her snake clan to defeat the evil General who wants to absorb the vitality and souls of snake spirits so that he can have black magic and use it to achieve immortality and fails in the process. Being saved from Xuan and brought to the snake-catcher village, her amnesia makes her believe that she is human, discovering her powers and finding her memories back gradually. Caught between her sister Verta who has promised to bring her back, the snake clan who believes that she has betrayed them and the General hunting her down for her thousand year soul, her feelings for Xuan grows stronger but at the same time, she is faced with having to fulfill her duties for her “species”. White Snake ends where most White Snake retellings would start.
The White Snake story is familiar territory for those who know Chinese folklore. However, the animation world of China isn’t. This is where White Snake truly shines: in its visually stunning animation paired up with its use of traditional Chinese music. The details from every dandelion fuzz flying through the air of the movement of its nature and especially in the outstanding movements of its characters, their expressions and even more so, the impressive action sequences makes White Snake an exercise of art. It adds in some Chinese painting elements in the opening scenes and the backdrop that resembles the landscape of Chinese paintings for example. Its stylistic and beautiful.
The story doesn’t take the easy path either, despite its frequent retelling. Those familiar with the story will definitely see where the romance scenes will go and the torturous love between them, however while the film spends a lot of time between Blanca and Xuan, its more of a natural progression of their knowledge of each other (for the most part) and a quest to find her memory. At the same time, its more about the General’s evil ambitions as well as the usual stereotypes of breaking the barriers between whether being a spirit, most often seen as evil is different depending on their nature. At the heart of it, the romance isn’t forced and connects easily. While these two main leads are the heart of the story, its hard to not feel that the standout characters are comedic relief, Xuan’s dog who is given talking abilities called Dudou as well as the sly fox spirit who runs the Precious Jade who is literally two-faced in her design, reflective of the image of the cunning and attractive nature in fox spirits in Chinese folklore. Plus, there are a lot of creative iterations of creatures to give it an extra boost in uniqueness.
White Snake is a spectacular animated film. It has a lot of elements that make it great form visuals to creative retellings while still doing justice to the origin story of how Blanca meets Xuan and finally leads to the more normal telling of The Legend of the White Snake. Its not only an animated film but a creative way to share Chinese folklore to the rest of the world in a charming way.