Havoc in Heaven

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Havoc in Heaven

Havoc in Heaven (Chinese: 大闹天宫, dà nào tiān gōng) is an animated film produced by the four Wan brothers in the 1960s, at the height of Chinese animation. It received numerous awards and won the brothers domestic and international acclaim.

The story is adapted from the first chapters of the Chinese classic "Journey to the West." Sun Wukong, the rebellious Monkey King, challenges the power of the Jade Emperor of heaven. The film begins with Wukong accidentally breaking his saber while showing off during a military parade; at the suggestion of an old monkey, he visits the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea for a suitable replacement. The Dragon King shows him a magical pillar, called the As-You-Will Cudgel, which can change sizes. Expecting it to be too heavy for Wukong, the Dragon King is surprised when he takes it and demands it back. But Wukong tells the Dragon King that he should not have offered it if he did not want it to be taken, and then goes back to his kingdom.

The Dragon King goes to heaven and petitions the Jade Emperor to return the pillar and punish Wukong. The God of the North Star suggests instead that the Emperor give him a minor post in heaven. The Emperor grants Wukong the post of Head of the Imperial Stables. But when he arrives in heaven, Wukong was unhappy to see the treatment of the horses and sets them free. The General of the Imperial Calvary is furious when he comes for an inspection, and Wukong realizes he was tricked and returns to his kingdom, where he claims the title "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven."

The furious Emperor sends his general and troops to capture Wukong, but they were defeated by the monkeys. The God of the North Star goes to his kingdom to try to trick him into accepting another post in heaven, this time as the guardian of the Heavenly Garden. Wukong finally agrees, and left alone in the garden, eats the Empress’s peaches of immortality. He soon learns of a banquet he was not invited to and ends up stealing all the food to take home to his kingdom for his subjects. Along the way, he eats the Emperor’s Pills of Immortality.

When the Empress discovers the remains of her banquet, the Emperor sends his general and army to capture Wukong, A battle ensues and Wukong is captured. However, he uses his superior skills and magic to avoid multiple attempts at execution. At Lao Tzu’s suggestion, Wukong is put into a furnace for days. When Lao Tzu opens the furnace, expecting to see Wukong’s ashes, Wukong breaks free and destroys the palace and causes the Emperor to flee. He then returns home to his cheering subjects.

The film was screened in 1965 for the first time but then banned during the Cultural Revolution. It was released again after the turmoil and became a smash hit. It went on to win several awards, including Outstanding Film award at the 1978 International London Film Festival, 13th Special Interest award at the Czech Republic Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and the Best Art award and Children’s Literature award at the Hundred Flowers Film Festival.

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