The Animated Resurrection of the Legend of the White Snake in Japan
AbstractThis article analyses and elucidates the factors involved in the animated reappearance of the Legend of the White Snake in Japan in the 1950s. Driven by the multiple demands of a new post-Second World War era in East and Southeast Asia, where the business of making new images was more urgent, profitable and competitive than ever before, the tale served both micro and macro purposes. Since the legendary tale was well known in the Chinese-speaking world and was initially a joint film project between Japan and Hong Kong, one would have expected the producers (Toei Animation Studio) to envisage the animated tale as primarily for Chinese audiences. However, the Japanese producers had, or later discovered, a wider hidden agenda in making the film that promised more lucrative and geopolitical rewards. Using the concept of ‘performativity’, this article interprets the course of the animated performance within several dimensions, and traces the history of the foundational role of Toei Animation Studio and its dream-making enterprise.