McDull's Visual World : Rhizomes, Psychogeographies, and Topographies

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 32 - Refereed conference paper (without host publication)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2006


Title26th Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference
Period16 June 2006 - 20 June 2014


Unlike classic Hollywood, the Hong Kong movie industry has never nurtured a parallel assembly line devoted to the production of animation. Consequently, the history of animation in Hong Kong is fitful and fragmentary, with few notable commercial or artistic successes over a span of several decades. It comes a something of a surprise, then, that arguably the most culturally distinctive and artistically creative series of films to emerge in the relative doldrums that have defined Hong Kong cinema in the 21st Century features a naive young pig, his endlessly resourceful working class mother, and a supporting cast of friends, teachers, and mentors of various species (including human). Originating as a local comic strip in the early 1990s, there are now five feature-length McDull animations (the first was released in 2001, the latest in 2012) that cumulatively chronicle the immediate and ongoing interests, desires, tastes, and aspirations of contemporary Hong Kong’s “grassroots” population. These are the descendants of the working and middle class people who were the foundation of the city’s economic miracle of half a century ago, citizens who today find it increasingly difficult to maintain economic parity and a reasonable stock of cultural capital, much less get ahead in a complex, hyper-intensive post-industrial society. All this may sound like a heavy, serious burden for cartoon characters to carry, but the McDull films manage to do so rather effortlessly, through a combination of whimsical, often absurd humor and Cantonese wordplay, gentle but pointed satire that illuminates taken-for-granted local beliefs and behaviors (sometimes celebrating and sometimes skewering this cultural baggage), and an ongoing meditation on the relationship among the past, present, and future histories and mythologies of Hong Kong. In this essay, we consider the anthropological, cultural, and industrial parameters of the McDull films, as well as the series’ rather distinctive visual style, which is quite specifically designed to augment, complement, illustrate, and comment upon the social environments inhabited by the characters through images that are themselves emphatically local and recognizable, yet often defamiliarized.

Citation Format(s)

McDull's Visual World: Rhizomes, Psychogeographies, and Topographies. / FORE, Steve.
2006. Paper presented at 26th Annual Society for Animation Studies Conference, Toronto, Canada.

Research output: Conference PapersRGC 32 - Refereed conference paper (without host publication)peer-review