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YouTube: 5 Chinese Movies for Kids-Playlist Shared

Saturday, January 25, 2020, marks the beginning of the year of the Rat on the Chinese Lunar calendar. The New Year celebration lasts 16 days, from New Year's Eve to the 15th day of the New Year- the Lantern Festival. What a great time to grab some popcorn and cuddle up with your little Chinese learner for a movie! 
 
Unfortunately, it is not all straightforward or easy to find Chinese movies to watch, even if you are willing to pay! If you search for Children’s Chinese movies on YouTube, you will very likely come up with a confusing hodgepodge of movies. Some good original Chinese animation movies like the 小金刚 (xiǎo jīn gāng) Little Monkey in the Big Apple, when "imported" to the United States, have been dubbed with English voice-over. Some movies may have received much hype in China, but don't hold their appeal for audiences in the West. Those movies include the following two that I do NOT recommend: The Boonie Bears series 熊出没 (xióng chū mò) and The Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf series 喜羊羊与灰太狼 ( xǐ yáng yáng yǔ huī tài láng ). Since these shows seemed to be popular in China a few years ago, I carried home boxes of DVDs for my sons. These were not worth the space in my luggage! Too much grownup humor and pointless action sequences that glorify aggressive behavior. The series’ New Year-themed movies are no exception.
 
After sitting & screening hours of YouTube movies (unfortunately, most of them I would not like my boys to watch), we have found five movies (four feature-length films and one 5-minute animated poem) that our family loves to watch! And what can beat the convenience of YouTube? We have organized all the movies we recommend into a playlist on JoJo's YouTube Channel for your convenience. Stay tuned! 

#1 Little Door Gods 小门神 (Xiǎo Mén Shén)

Ages: 4+
Genres: Animation, Fantasy, Superhero
Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese 
Subtitle: Simplified Chinese and English
Why I recommend it:
  • Even though the movie was made in 2016, it is one of the more engaging Chinese movies on YouTube till today
  • Simple conversational dialogue, easy for young Chinese learners to understand
  • Engaging storytelling
  • High quality animation, adorable character design
  • English and Chinese subtitles for family fun
  • I love this contemporary family story about Chinese traditions. I remember the days when many families in my hometown left posters of gods on their doors to allow the spirits access to protect their homes. Lovely!
Warning: The villain in the story, 年(Nián), can be scary for young kids. Sound familiar? I had to remind my boys: There is a monster. He is not real! 年(Nián), translated as Year, was a monster in old Chinese tales. Nián came out of its lair each New Year to attack people. Eventually, people figured out how to fend off Nián by exploding firecrackers and lighting red lanterns in the new year.
 
Plot: When a Chinese family's dumpling soup shop is targeted for sabotage by a competitor, two guardians from the spirit world leave retirement to protect them. You can read more about the movie from this Wikipedia page. 

#2 The Magic Brush 神笔马良 (shén bǐ mǎ liáng)

Ages: 4+
Genres: Animation, Fantasy, Chinese Folk Tale
Duration: 1 hour 23 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese 
Subtitle: Simplified Chinese and English
Why I recommend it:
  • The movie was an ambitious production in 2014 supported by Disney China.  Although it didn’t receive much international attention, it remains one of the better-made Chinese animation movies.
  • The movie, although not comparable to a true blockbuster Disney movie, is fun and joyful. The storytelling was unpredictable and engaging.
  • The animation’s settings, design and lighting are beautiful, and the characters are adorable!
  • Everyday conversational dialogue makes it easier for young Chinese learners to understand than some more mature movies
  • English and Chinese subtitles for family fun
  • The story is based on a Chinese folk tale that has been widely interpreted through art and literature throughout Chinese history. Watching the movie is a nice way to introduce the “famous” Ma Liang character to young children.

Warning: The animation can be choppy in places. And some humor may not land well with an audience that is not familiar with Chinese language and culture. 

Plot: A young and kind peasant boy named Ma Liang loved drawing and drew pictures everywhere. He had the greatest dream to be an artist. He lived a peaceful and happy life in his hometown Bai Hua village.

All was well until, one day, a powerful general with an evil plan paid a visit to Bai Hua village. He kidnapped the emperor and had a plan to evict the village in order to mine the land for gold. Disaster was imminent for the villagers.  

As the general plotted out his ill plan, the boy Ma Liang was given a magic paintbrush by the Ink Spirit. The Ink Spirit informed Ma Liang of the brush’s great power and told him to use it wisely, because whatever Ma Liang drew with the brush, the drawing would come to life instantly.

Ma Liang used his paintbrush to help the villagers protect their homes, but the general found out about the magic brush and plotted to steal it…

With a spiritual awakening, Ma Liang learned that he must “draw from the heart” in order to unleash the real power of the magic brush. 

#3 Kung Food 美食大冒险之英雄烩 (měi shí dà mào xiǎn zhī yīng xióng huì)

Ages: 4+
Genres: Animation, Fantasy, Action, Kung Fu, Superhero
Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese 
Subtitle: Simplified Chinese
Why I recommend it:
  • Kung Food is an adaptation of a popular Children’s TV series about an adventurous stuffed steamed bun. It took 13 million dollars and more than half a decade to develop and produce in China. Although the movie didn’t take off internationally as planned, I think it is a very well made Chinese animated film!
  • Lots of exciting action for all the little Kung Fu fans out there
  • Adorable characters that are all foods. What else tells a better story about Chinese culture than foods? Noodle lady, dumpling baby, sushi man, …
  • The movie, although not comparable to the most popular Disney movies, is fun and entertaining an the storytelling is engaging.
  • The animation’s settings, design and lighting are all high quality.

Warning: Some conversation may not be easily understandable for an audience that is not familiar with Chinese literature and culture. And it doesn’t help that there are no English subtitles! 

Plot: Super Bao, an innocent and passionate stuffed steamed bun, goes through untold hardships and finally grows into a great hero who saves the world of foods. All heroes in the movie are types of food!

#4 Kung Fu Boys 龙拳小子 ( Lóng Quán Xiǎo Zi)

Also known as: Dragon Fist Boys
KungFu Boys 小门神 (Xiǎo Mén Shén) Movie Poster Image
Ages: 5+ (also my almost 4-year-old son loved it!)
Genres: Action, Comedy
Duration: 1 hour 53 minutes
Language: Mandarin Chinese 
Subtitle: Simplified Chinese and English
Why I recommend it:
  • A story sophisticated enough for big kids, with short and simple dialogue
  • Lots of exciting Kung Fu action
  • Excellent cast, especially the hero, 14-year-old Lin Qiu Nan
  • English and Chinese subtitles for family fun
  • One of my boys’ favorite Chinese movies. They giggle, laugh and exclaim throughout the movie!
Warning: The young Kung Fu boys are fighting real criminals. There are no guns, but plenty of jumping, kicking and punching. My boys were inspired to try a few playful Kung Fu moves on each other after watching all that (consider yourself warned if you have more than one child!).
 
Plot: The film tells the story of a boy, Lin Qiunan, who grew up in America. Lin Qiunan is a troublemaker with a “superhero dream”. He gets sent to China by his parents to stay with his uncle Yuan. They live together and Lin Qiunan believes that he needs to take care of his “fragile uncle.” He and his uncle get mixed up with an international crime syndicate, and a thrilling, comedic martial arts showdown ensues.

#5  Lunar New Year's Day 元日 (Yuǎn Rì)

Ages: 2+
Genres: short film, animation
Duration: 5 minutes 30 seconds
Language: Mandarin Chinese 
Subtitle: Simplified Chinese
 
Why I recommend:
  • Charming modern adaption of a 900-year-old classic Chinese poem by 王安石 ( wǎng ān shí)
  • Song Dynasty (960-1279) setting with authentic, traditional New Year activities
  • Simple conversational language
  • Short and sweet
  • Pleasing original graphic design and music
  • Not only a delight for children, the film also sentimentally appeals to busy parents. Some of the beloved new year activities, for example, the blowing sugar figures, no longer commonly seen in today’s China, can be seen here. The new short film has received rave reviews from parents with young children in China.
Warning: No English subtitles.
 
The adapted poem in simplified Chinese:
 
王安石《元日》
爆竹声中一岁除,
东风送暖入屠苏。
千门万户曈曈日,
争插新桃换旧符。
 
English translation:
 
Chinese New Year's Day
by Wang Anshi
(translated by Xinliang Huang)  
Amid the boom of firecrackers, a year has come to an end,
And the spring wind has wafted warm breath to the wine.
While the rising sun shines over each and every household,
People would put up new peachwood charm for the old.
 
Wang Anshi (1021-1086) was one of the greatest politicians, philosophers and scholars in the Song Dynasty.  

Stay tuned

New and exciting children’s movies are hitting the theaters in China constantly these days. And occasionally, some movies made to YouTube. As more and more people are requesting to watch Chinese children's movies. We hope to see more ways for our kids to access high quality, fun Chinese movies conveniently in the United States. When it comes to getting more Chinese exposure for our little learners, who can resist a good movie? Subscribe to JoJo's YouTube Channel to stay tuned!
 

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Thanks for reading!

Happy learning,

Christine

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