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4D Animation-Enlightening

Project Description:

4D science fiction animated film "Enlightening" tells the story of two Chinese astronauts who go through hardships and support each other in Mars exploration and eventually find life on Mars in a future where Mars exploration technology is becoming more and more mature. With realistic Martian wonders, Martian life speculations, a twisted storyline, and empathetic characters, "Enlightening" realizes the project's original intention: to produce a sci-fi animated short film with artistic highlights based on science and imagination for the youth group.

The project started after the launch of the Mars probe "Tianwen1" in 2020. The first concept trailer released on May 15, 2021, the day that the Mars rover "ZhuRong" landed on Mars. As a gift for the youth and a wish for the "overdue" rover "ZhuRong" to continue the exploration of Mars after hibernation, "Enlightening" premiered in September 2022.

The film took fifteen months to produce. After communicating with scientific advisors while doing a lot of preliminary research, the production team tried to reach a balance between scientific and entertaining elements considering that the film is aimed at a specific group of teenager. The artistic touch enlightened the sci-fi production. With 18 drafts of the script, 12 designs and modelings of main Martian scenes, and 12 versions of the storyboard, the production team and the art department were innovative in the integration of 2D and 3D art styles to restore a "real" Mars. When the audience sits on the 4D seat with special effects, an immersive journey to Mars has already begun.

After its premiere on September 27, 2022, the film will be shown in the 4D Cinemas of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and the Shanghai Natural History Museum as well as distributed to science museums and platforms nationwide. In terms of awards, the trailer of "Enlightening" has won the third prize of “Zhen” Excellent Technical Award in Chinagraph 2022, and has been shortlisted for the "Golden Angel Award" in the 18th Annual Chinese American Film Festival 2022.


1. Creative speculation about life on Mars

As for the creative speculation of Martian life forms, the production team has discussed the topic with scientific advisors in the field of biological research. Given the fact that in extreme environments on Earth such as deserts and glaciers where halophiles and cryophiles are found, as well as the widespread presence of noctiluca scientillans on Earth, it provides a reasonable basis for the setting of "fluorescent microorganisms" on Mars. "In my mind, the extraterrestrial life form in 'Enlightening' is the closest thing to reality. Even though it might be far from most people's 'film fantasies' of extraterrestrial life. Perhaps the 'reality' is what sci-fi fans need in the world full of special effects." Science writer Jie Wang commended after the premiere.

2. Unique oil painting artistic style

Although the main production method of "Enlightening" is 3D animation, the production team insists on exploring the integration with 2D hand-drawn style to enhance the artistic expression of the film as well as to meet the needs of emotional expression. For example, instead of using photos or CG, the opening and ending sequences was drawn on the glass frame by frame in layers by oil painting artist Xin Li. With the theme of "the origin of the universe", the two sequences expressed the profoundity of the universe.

3. The use of Theremin

Junjie Su, the composer of the film, chose the Theremin to interpret the ethereal sound of the universe for the music of the opening and ending credits specifically. The Theremin is the only electronic instrument that does not require physical contact to play. It represents the relationship between human beings and the universe metaphorically: it is hard to reach but always within each other.

4. the meaning of "Enlightening"

The title, "Enlightening", implies that although mankind is incredibly small in front of the vastness of the universe, the pioneers exploring the universe are still determined to light up the galaxy and leave legacies. The calligraphy design of the title was done by Yongjiang Gu, a famous graphic designer, calligrapher, and water-ink artist. His most widely known works are the logo of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, and the logo of the Planetary Exploration of China and mission Tianwen1.

Business or Social Value: 4D science fiction animated film "Enlightening" is produced by Shanghai Animation Film Studio and Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Due to the advanced expertise in the field of animation and science education as well as the intersection of the target audience of the two parties, "Enlightening" has attracted widespread attention and anticipation. Mainstream media such as the Xinhua News Agency, Shanghai Publishing, CMG Mobile, and Shangguan News also reported "Enlightening" as an inspiring project.

"Enlightening" is a sci-fi production for teenagers with scientific and educational purpose. Based on science, "science fiction" and "science education" both have characteristics that stimulate curiosity and creativity. Therefore, science fiction education could promote the inspiration of imagination, while location-based science education could break the limitations of time and space, enlighten the curiosity of young audience, and accelerate the self-construction of common body of knowledge. "Enlightening" represents the story of two Chinese astronauts' journey to discover the possibility of life on Mars with an optimistic and fearless spirit through a logical sci-fi background setting rooted in well-founded scientific evidence. Bo Chen, the director of the film said, "This 4D science fiction animation film is a gift to children, hoping to leave a seed of curiosity and a dream of universe in their hearts. I also hope that audience could learn the persistent and fearless spirit of the astronauts in the film."

In addition to the social values mentioned above, the derivative works, productions, and commercial value of "Enlightening" are also in development. The box office income from the long-term screening at the 4D Cinemas in Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and the Shanghai Natural History Museum is estimated to have exceeded 20 million Yuan.

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