Princess Iron Fan

Welcome Back! We begin with Princess Iron Fan. Princess Iron Fan boasts the title of the first animated film from China and the first animated movie from Asia. It was released on January 1, 1941.


This movie has barely any information on it, which is normal for a lot of the earlier movies. Only the Disney movies it is easy to find information for.

This film had trouble being made. It was made in Shanghai under World War 2. The directors were Wan Guchan (Havoc in Heaven) and Wan Laiming (the Wan Brothers)) (Why is the Crow Black-Coated, Havoc in Heaven).

The Wan Brothers were the first animators in China. There was four of them total, Wan Guchan and Wan Laiming being twins. Their first “real” cartoon, Uproar in the Studio (1926) dominated China’s animation industry for several decades. In the late 1930s, Shanghai was under Japanese occupation. They began to work on China’s 1st animated film. After, viewing Snow White, they decided to create a film of equal quality for the nation’s honor.

The screenplay is by GanBai Wang. The music is composed by Lu Zhongren.

Princess Iron Fan took 3 years. 237 artists, and 350,00 yuan to make which is 52692.99 US Dollar present day. Rotoscoping was used to save money. The animation company was called Xinhua Film Company. It was the last company during Japanese occupation. Princess Iron Fan is the 12th animation film and 9th animation film to have survived.

“It’s influences were far-reaching; it was swiftly exported to wartime Japan (in 1942), inspiring the 16-year-old Tezuka Osamu to become a comics artist and prompting the Japanese Navy to commission Japan’s own first feature-length animated film, 1945’s Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (the earlier film Momotaro’s Sea Eagles is three minutes shy of being feature-length).” (Wikipedia)


Wikipedia doesn’t have the cast or any of the characters. IMDB does have the cast, but not the characters.

  • Wan Chaochen as voice; The Camel’s Dance, Shorts
  • Wan Guchan as voice; The Camel’s Dance, Da Zhen Tan, Shorts
  • Wan Laiming as voice; The Monkey King, The Camel’s Dance, Da Zhen Tan, Shorts
  • Dihuan Wan as voice

Original Story:

The film is based on an episode of the novel, Journey to the West. Journey to the West is a Chinese novel published in the 16th century. It was during the Ming dynasty and attributed to Wu Cheng’en. It is one of the Four Greatest Novels of Chinese literatures. In English speaking countries, it is known as Monkey. I have not read it, so I do not know how it differentiates from the book.

Before the Film:

I’ve never seen or heard of this film. So, I have no idea what it is like. Here is the link on YouTube:


We meet four of the characters: a monkey, a pig, the servant, and the master. The first three are to go to Princess Iron’s castle to attain the fan. The servant tries to (I’m not sure if he was trying to get the fan or the Princess), but he fails and is blown away. The monkey goes next and he gets in, and puts a stick thingy under her dress. It’s sort of creepy and she begs him not to kill her. He commands her to go get the fan. Apparently, that’s not the Princess, but the son. The mother then has a sword and tries to attack the monkey. Then they hold these small things and somehow they transform into weapons. One of the ladies swallows a bug who I’m guessing is the monkey, and he beats her up on the inside. The Princess gives them the fan, but it turns out to be fake. The monkey threatens to kill her. I’m not sure what happened, but somehow the Pig transformed into the Princess’s husband and is pretending to be him. He gets the fan, but then is tricked by her husband. Then everyone is fighting. Well, then they fight a bull and trap him, the Princess gives the monkey the fan. The monkey uses the fan to put out the fire. Then, in a scene, that looks similar to Snow White, they go to a castle in the sky. The End.


The scores are really nice. There is a part where the Princess is dancing, and it looks really nice.


Some of the animation is decent, and some is really bad. In this one part, when the servant gets hit by the Princess, his mouth disappears, his nose, and his eyes Then they slowly one by one reappear.  They used their real eyes for the character’s eyes which resulted in them looking really creepy. In certain parts, white light appears out of nowhere. Then in another part the monkey’s head disappears and he pulls it back like a snake.

There’s also a really creepy scene where the monkey transforms into a bug and goes into the Princess’s insides and hurts her. You can see some of her insides too. It’s kind of gross.

Also, some of the plot doesn’t make any sense. Like, how do a monkey and a man fly? They serve ham but there is a talking pic. How are they transforming into things? Why are they fighting in the sky with a bull? Where did the bull even come from?

The voice acting is really bad or it sounds really weird. It’s more like sounds are coming out rather than voices. I thought it was only for the animals, but they do that for the humans too.

Overall Opinion:

Overall, I dislike this film strongly. I have so many unanswered questions. The animation wasn’t good. The characters were bland and their voice actors weren’t good. It does have good scores and one of the scenes with the Princess dancing looks really good. Other, than that I don’t like this film and I don’t recommend it. Overall, I rate it a D-.

Favorite Character:

I don’t like any of the characters, but I guess if I had to choose it would be Princess Iron Fan. She’s pretty and has a pretty singing voice. Other, than that I don’t really like her.

Favorite Scene:

The scene when the Princess is dancing for her husband, but it turns out to be the pig. The way she dances is really pretty, and she has a nice singing voice.

(I can’t find a picture to the scene I’m talking about)

What did you think of the movie? What was your favorite scene?

Next, up is Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon. It is half live-action and half animation. It was made in 1941. I think I may have seen this movie, but I’m not sure. If I have, it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember anything about it. So, hopefully it is good.

(I do not own pictures, videos, etc. My information came from Wikipedia and IMDB.)



16 thoughts on “Princess Iron Fan

    1. Well, it is an odd one…I admit, I actually sidestepped discussing it at all in my own round-up for exactly that reason. I simply couldn’t get a grasp on it, and I had no idea how much my western perspective influenced my pov.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Odd is one word to describe it lol It might be a good film because it did influence a lot of anime. So, I guess it had to be good, but I don’t know. I didn’t really like it. I always feel bad reviewing movies from other countries that aren’t in English, because maybe they aren’t as bad as I think and its just sort of a language barrier issue or something. I try to be objective though and try to always find at least 1 good thing about a movie. Besides, I don’t think it would’ve one for your 1940s movies, even though I don’t remember which one you would’ve picked lol.


      2. 1940s was Disney all around, though I briefly touched on some other released. But between masterpieces like Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo and Fantasia, the big question was basically which Disney movie deserved it most…one guess which one won.
        Same for the 1950s, btw. Then started the dark age of animation.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Basically lol. Oh I think Fantasia then. I think Fantasia was your second or third choice for best movie? lol Oh yes I was looking at movies and I am not looking forward to the 60s or 70s, even Disney wasn’t at its best. And a lot of the movies sound weird. Like I think some of them are porn, which is weird. It isn’t until like the late 80s where animation starts to come back again lol


      4. So, I’ve been looking at the movies and making a list of the movies (which is why I haven’t even started Bambi yet lol). So, far I just finished the 90s. A lot of films are missing or there will be clips, but you can’t find the full movie. So, from pre 1940s to 1999, the total surviving movies total is 863. (which is a lot, I knew there was going to be a lot, but I didn’t think that much.) It isn’t really until the 1980s where there are a lot of animated films, and surprisingly there are more 1980 films than 1990s. (only by a little) One of my plans is to include some movies together, like for example Dragon Ball Z, I could just put all the sequels together and similar movies like that. The only exception to that is the Pokemon movies, but thats because besides Disney. Its one of my favorite things, and the first 3 movies are really good. After, that I’m not sure but its a lot of movies lol.


      5. You could exclude direct to video releases at the very last. I also excluded “movies” which weren’t at least one hour long (had the nice side-effect that I didn’t have to deal with the Russian productions).

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Good idea. Besides, Disney I’ll probably get rid of most of the direct releases. I think once I get to the 60s I’ll start doing that, because the 40s and 50s aren’t a lot of movies. And, a lot of movies sound pretty boring lol. I’m surprised some of them are considered movies since I’ve seen a few that are like 20 to 30 minutes long, and I thought a movie had to be at least 40 minutes.


  1. I do think it fits very nicely with the Asian style of storytelling though. The monkey and bulls flying are because they are heavenly creatures, not earthly ones. So they have the magic to transform into other animals and stuff. In a lot of Chinese myths, people and animals are rather interchangeable. Sometimes animals are animals or steeds. Sometimes it’s deities in disguise. Sometimes it’s animal spirits who come as animals, but are really fairies or some other god-like form. It’s not that they are flying as much as they are magical and have the powers to move through air. As for their weapons, that’s how they are in the original story. It’s magic — very Asian-mythesque. Why carry around a giant staff all the time?

    The face in the fire is definitely Asian style — personifying different inanimate objects. It may not be western-style, but I actually thought it was a fascinating watch for someone interested in non-western film, mythology, or storytelling. It’s a great moral tale and I think the animation wasn’t that confusing at all.

    In the original story, the basic plot is: The monkey a long time ago did something to make the Princess Iron Fan upset. (He is a monkey and often plays tricks or jokes on people–in the animation it says he hurt her son in the past). Now, to accomplish his goal of passing the fire mountain, he needs her special fan to put out the fire. But she doesn’t like him and refuses to him. So, as usual, he gets up to his monkey ways and tries tricking her. But if you’re gonna play tricks by turning into a fly and bugging her to death (that was in the original storybook), mow it’s only fair for them to trick you too . . . . so she gives him a fake fan that makes the fire worse. Instead of learning his lesson, he sends the pig to appear as the Iron Bull (her husband — it actually says he is her husband in the animation at the beginning. Apparently he was gone on a trip for the first part of the story). It works, but then the real Iron Bull arrives and is furious that they tricked his wife. Again, the monkey and his group opened the door for trickery, so the Bull tricks them instead. It all just keeps getting worse and worse. The monkey is the personification of humanity — reckless, arrogant, and somewhat proud. He rarely thinks ahead (like his early confidence that they can make it through the fire only to test it out and get his butt caught on flame). He ignores the rules of propriety (looking for a man’s wife when the man wasn’t home). His past behavior (like his relationship with Princess Iron Fan) gets him into trouble later. He jumps into danger without thinking (angering the Iron Bull). He doesn’t always work together with his friends and tries doing stuff on his own. The pig personifies our other weaknesses like laziness and gluttony and lust. He gets distracted by the girl (another man’s wife — like that wasn’t gonna make the bull mad). He then in turn gets tricked by the iron bull. The moral was that in your own “journey to the west” or path to becoming a good person, you should learn to overcome these flaws. It was intended to teach children virtues and values.

    I’ll be honest, I felt really bad for the Bull and his wife. They didn’t really do anything wrong in the animation. . . . Besides, it’s pretty cool that they had the princess wearing her sword and armour ready to take down the monkey who hurt her son. Disney didn’t have a lot of strong female characters in their animations at the time. 😀

    The animation itself isn’t GREAT, but the plotline was cool and it gave western viewers an idea of eastern storytelling and morality lessons. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all the information. Honestly, I don’t even remember the movie that much. I only remember that I was really bored and confused watching it. I think one of the problems was I believe it didn’t have any English translations, which helps a lot. So, I didn’t understand what was going on. I’ve never read the original tale. And, I’m not really as familiar with Asian animation (besides the occasional few from Japan.) I believe this was my first Chinese animated film I’ve seen. I’m glad you explained everything, because I did not understand this movie. The same thing happened with The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926 Germany), but a blogger explained the movie to me. It made a lot more sense, and I’ve been meaning to re-watch that film. I might do the same for this one. Thanks for the information and thank you for reading.


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