Postcard from... Beijing

  • @cliffordcoonan

Mao Zedong’s face already adorns every bank note, and a portrait of the Great Helmsman graces the gates of the Forbidden City at the heart of the capital Beijing. Now China’s founding father is set to feature in an animated film about his teenage years.

The cartoon is being made to help propaganda efforts to boost Mao’s image. China has an ambiguous attitude to Mao: while he is revered for leading the revolution that brought about China’s foundation in 1949, he is also hated because of the failed agricultural programme called the Great Leap Forward that caused a famine in which millions died, and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which is often referred to as “the 10-year catastrophe”. The Great Helmsman is described as 70 per cent good, 30 per cent bad.

The idea behind the cartoon When Mao Zedong Was Young is to show Mao in a positive light, and it is being made by the movie and TV production subsidiary of the propaganda flagship Qiushi Journal and two filmmaking companies based in Hunan, the South China Morning Post reported.

The movie poster shows Mao as a skinny teenager, sporting a braid, a typical hairdo during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), looking cheerful and assured.

Lu Huasheng, art director at Qiushi’s film and TV centre, told the newspaper that the cartoon was meant to reach out to young people who knew little about revolutionary heroes.

“Children like to watch cartoons. The old and stereotypical style [of presenting leaders] can’t engage them any more. This is the 21st Century. We can’t be stuck in the old ways. We need to be innovative,” said Mr Lu.

The plan is to the have the 30 million yuan (£3m) project ready for December 26, which is the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth in 1893.