The classic Chinese folklore of the Butterfly Lovers – Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai – gets an an updated rendition in this delightful full length animated feature similar to Disney’s Mulan! Back in the Jin Dynasty, when only males were allowed to attend school, Zhu, a feisty young woman disguises herself as a boy to be educated. She meets Liang and falls in love, but before she can tell him her true identity, Zhu’s parents arranged to have her marry the son of a local merchant. Undaunted, Zhu vows to defy tradition in order to follow her heart, and risk it all to be with her true love”– The Butterfly Lovers DVD Description
The Butterfly Lovers is produced by Central Motion Pictures. It is based off the Chinese folktale Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The original story, sometimes abbreviated as Liang Zhu, is counted as one of China’s Four Great Folktales. The Butterfly Lovers appears to be the first film directed by Ming Chin Tsai, who is also credited with writing the film.
Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below)…
As is my custom, I’ll note that this one isn’t technically a Princess movie. Zhu Yingtai seems to be of some sort of nobility. She’s comes from a wealthy family and is referred to as ‘Lady Zhu’ (Rather, “Lady Jo” in the dubbed version I was watching) by others. That means this one feels close enough for me to include it on this blog. I should also mention too, this one is actually a somewhat decent film. The animation is decent, it has some nice backgrounds… overall the visuals are pretty good.
The entirety of why I included The Butterfly Lovers on this blog relates to the execution of the story elements. The most noteworthy thing about this film for me is how it starts off as pretty light-hearted, even downright silly in some parts. The introduction to the villain, for instance, is done with him and his cronies singing a song about all the various reasons why he’s so great (mostly revolving around how rich he is). Then the film reaches a certain point where the tone does a complete 180.
I’m treading into spoiler territory here, so if you want to experience this one for yourself, stop reading now. The Butterfly Lovers is a tragic love story, somewhat comparable to the original version of The Little Mermaid. The original folk tale does not end well for our protagonists, and the animated version of the film is faithful to this. I had some familiarity with the original story when I first watched this film, so I went into this prepared for a a downer ending. The cheeriness of the first part of the film sort of lulled me into a false sense of security, I started to second-guess whether or not the film was going to keep the original ending. Then that aforementioned tonal shift happened, and it became immediately clear that things were going to end on a bittersweet note. The aforementioned silly villain I talked about in the last paragraph? He came off so harmlessly inept at the start of the movie but once that shift happens… well, he’s not so harmless anymore.
One last thing I’ll mention about this one, as noted above I watched the dubbed version of the film. The dub itself is pretty serviceable, save for the fact that, on my DVD at least, none of the songs in the film are translated nor are subtitles provided. You can turn on English subtitles manually, but you’ll either have to leave them on for the entire film (Which is a bit distracting as they don’t exactly match up with the dubbed dialogue), or switch them on/off anytime a song appears. Of course, you can always watch the film with the original audio tract/subtitles. You’ll just have to pick whatever works the best for your viewing group.
I say, give this one a shot. It’s always interesting to check out movies of lesser known stories, and The Butterfly Lovers has a lot of entertainment to be found in it.
As an aside, I couldn’t find an English language trailer for this one, but the DVD comes with a trailer for the original film. This trailer actually does a good job at demonstrating the tonal shift that happens in the movie, so I’ve included it below.