Stunning CGI Chinese Epic

Made with a touch of Western sensibilities, White Snake (Baishe: Yuanqi) is a fundamentally Chinese movie. The animated epic from Light Chaser Animation serves as a prequel to the legend of the white snake, known throughout China as a popular fairy-tale. A snake catcher in the local village happens to fall in love with a mysterious woman who has lost her memory. The woman is a snake demon, sent on a mission to assassinate a wicked general.

Beautiful fantasy animation, outstanding wuxia action, and the enduring Chinese legend come together for a dazzling spectacle suitable for most audiences. Westerners will find its timeless tale of two star-crossed lovers an appealing adventure filled with demons, a friendly talking dog, and deadly supernatural battles.

Foreign animation rarely achieves such a breathtaking scope. It’s a beautifully rendered vision of imperial China laden with magical creatures living alongside humans. White Snake’s filmmakers have crafted expressive characters that could fit into a Pixar film without skipping a beat. Without pandering to younger children, White Snake embraces more adult themes in a bid for older audiences. There is even a hint of sexual innuendo in the romance. That works flawlessly, capturing a magical time of fantasy 500 years in the past without sanding off the edges.

White Snake has the fully realized artistic direction of a classic Disney film

Xuan is a snake catcher afraid of snakes. One day he rescues a mysterious woman named Blanca. Blanca has lost her memories. Together they make a journey looking for her real identity. Blanca is actually a snake demon, told that humans cannot be trusted. Xuan falls in love with Blanca as their world hangs in the balance. Dark forces plot a war between the snake demons and the wicked human general absorbing their supernatural powers. Caught in the crossfire is Xuan’s village.

White Snake is an animated epic with vivid storytelling and memorable characters. Western touches include Xuan’s comical canine companion, Dudou. The story is also much darker in tone than Hollywood allows animated CGI films today. White Snake is a fairy tale that doesn’t omit the more unsavory aspects of classic fairy tales. Packed with action, the smooth narrative isn’t burdened with unnecessary additions. A deft mix of lighter and more serious moments range the full gamut of emotion.

White Snake has the fully realized artistic direction of a classic Disney film. The cutting-edge CGI animation and its bold creative vision make it the best animated Chinese movie ever made. Tight and thrilling, the epic does wonders reworking a familiar Chinese legend.

Video

White Snake’s pristine CGI animation has finely polished craftsmanship. Fluid and striking, it’s a visual masterpiece inspired by Chinese culture. The vivid 2.40:1 presentation absolutely sparkles in 1080P video, some of the finest animated video quality seen outside of Pixar and Dreamworks. Embracing realistic character designs and fantasy elements, White Snake shines.

Crafted by Light Chaser Animation, from people that partially cut their teeth in America, White Snake’s detail and fluidity push the boundaries of realistic CGI in the cinema. The dazzling color palette has brilliant saturation. Primary colors explode on screen, while maintaining perfect black levels and a rich contract.

Released by GKIDS, the 99-minute main feature is encoded in high-bitrate AVC on a BD-50. That doesn’t stop some color banding sneaking into the otherwise flawless animation. It’s the only thing preventing White Snake from being hailed as videophile heaven. Nevertheless, White Snake’s animation is superb and a real treat on better displays.

Audio

The voices of Vincent Rodriguez III, Matthew Moy, Faye Mata, and Stephanie Sheh headline White Snake’s excellent English dub. Heard in 5.1 DTS-HD MA, the English soundtrack offers an aggressively discrete surround mix with tight bass and constant immersion. One of the best English dubs of foreign animation in recent memory, White Snake has top-notch audio design which reflects its superior production values. The original Mandarin audio is presented in smooth 5.1 DTS-HD MA with a nearly equivalent surround mix.

White Snake’s surround audio is only a notch below the best Hollywood efforts. The animated film’s powerful score strikes a magnificent balance with more subtle cues. The soundstage has real depth and presence, layered with pinpoint sounds. Battles include fantastic dynamics and nice separation.

This is one case where I would have no qualms recommending English speakers picking the English dub as their preferred listening option. Going by the included English subtitles that translate the Chinese dialogue, little is altered in the English dialogue beyond some softening of sexual innuendo.

Optional English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles play in a white font, always inside the 2.40:1 presentation. The English subtitles translate the Chinese audio’s dialogue, while the English dub is transcribed by the SDH subtitles.

Extras

Shout Factory distributes White Snake for GKIDS. The Blu-ray and DVD combo pack arrives with a glossy slipcover. The Chinese production receives a few supplemental features. The interviews with Co-Director Ji Zhao are actually in English.

Interview With Co-Director Ji Zhao (14:19 in HD) – An engaging discussion with the co-director discussing Light Chaser Animation and elements in the movie such as the love story.

Music Video (02:53 in HD) – “Origin” by Zhou Shen plays with footage from the movie serving as the visuals.

Storyboard Clips (04:34 in HD) – Select scenes from the movie such as Xuan flying play in split-screen accompanied by their storyboards.

Trailers (06:29 in HD) – Two U.S. Trailers and the Chinese Trailer for White Snake play in order.

Director Q&A At The Animation Is Film Festival (26:30 in HD) – Co-Director Ji Zhao answers questions from an audience, covering several topics. He discusses his early background, attending UCLA, the challenges of CGI animation, adapting a popular Chinese fairy-tale, and other questions about the movie.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

White Snake
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  • Extras
5

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A popular Chinese legend comes to epic life in this beautiful and expressive animated masterpiece.

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