Veteran Animator Enjoys Fun, Artistry, and Deeper Meaning of Shen Yun’s Backdrops

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
December 22, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

MISSISSAUGA, Canada—Veteran animator Charles Bonifacio, who directed the animation for the original Care Bear movies in the mid-1980s and has worked on a host of other iconic animated films such as Disney’s Mulan and Tarzan II, has special appreciation for the vivid high-tech animated backdrops of Shen Yun Performing Arts.

That was the first thing he talked about on Saturday evening after seeing the renowned New York-based classical Chinese dance and music production at Mississauga’s Living Arts Centre.

“It was very fun to see the dancers jumping down and then ending up on the moon or in the rivers. …. Very exciting, it gives another dimension to the dance,” Mr. Bonifacio said, describing the state-of-the-art graphics that complement and synchronize all aspects of the performance, including the characters, dance movements, and storyline, even specific notes played by the orchestra.

“It gives you another dimension of space and time, and characters can come from another world or the moon and join the dancers on stage, so it gives that other spiritual dimension as well,” Mr. Bonifacio noted.

The backdrops mesmerized viewers with windows to completely different worlds, from a tropical beach in one dance to Himalayan peaks in another, from the picturesque Yellow River Delta to celestial palaces, from ancient pavilions to vast open grasslands.

Values of an ancient culture

It was another sold-out show on Shen Yun’s five-show run in Mississauga, its first stop in Canada for the company’s 100-city 2013 World Tour, including eight Canadian cities.

Founded in 2006, Shen Yun now has three dance groups with accompanying full orchestras that tour the world with an all-new show each year. Shen Yun’s website states its mission is to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture.

After over 60 years of communist rule in China, Chinese traditional culture has been all but completely lost, notes the site.

“However, the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture, with its values of benevolence, honour, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity, as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens, cannot be destroyed,” it reads.

This aspect of the Shen Yun performance greatly resonated with Mr. Bonifacio.

“The characters interacted with both realms—the earthly realm and the heavenly realm,” he noted, adding that he was touched by “the understanding of those realms of spirit world that affect our own world.”

‘Sense of compassion and serving others’

The performance included story-based dances that depicted the peaceful resistance of practitioners of the Falun Gong meditation practice under communist persecution in today’s Mainland China.

Referring to meditation, Mr. Bonifacio said that “it’s certainly what we have to do, there’s so much violence in the world.”

“We’re being oppressed by the violence in the world and people feel [that] if they need to, they can achieve what they want to achieve through violence,” Mr. Bonifacio said.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of mind is more important, than controlling people’s thoughts, minds, and actions,” he said.

Despite violent oppression, the practitioners of Falun Gong remained true to their principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance.” The themes of kindness and courage also ran through the other dances and songs of the Shen Yun production.

“That sense of compassion and serving others—most important,” Mr. Bonifacio said. “So it’s important to bring that expression around and remind people that’s more important than fighting over possessions, or land, or political ideas.”

Captivating synchronization and precision

He had high praise for the show overall.

“A beautiful spectacle,” Mr. Bonifacio said he would tell his friends.

“The dancers are amazingly synchronized and yet so individual in their expression of their dance, and the costumes are fantastic. Their synchronization and their ability to perform in such precise and artistic ways is just captivating.”

“It’s wonderful to see,” he added. “And then the spiritual message behind it and the artistic message is lovely.”

Just as the dancers are doing, Mr. Bonifacio said that it is important “to express yourself, to appreciate the beauty of nature, to appreciate the cooperation with other people, and to express and appreciate a higher power than onself.”

“There’s a power in community and a power in something beyond ourselves, and [the dancers] express that,” he said.

In the 1980s, Mr. Bonifacio worked on several productions of Toronto animation studio Nelvana, including Rock and Rule, Inspector Gadget, Star Wars: Ewoks, and the first two Care Bear movies.

In the 1990s he worked on the Australian-American animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforrest as well as Disney’s Mulan.

He has worked on many other animated films and specials, including The Land Before Time, Rock-a-Doodle, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Strawberry Shortcake, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, among others.

Reporting by NTD Television and Cindy Chan.

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company will be in Mississauga until Dec. 23 before going to Ottawa and Montreal and other dates in Ontario, Quebec, and across Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org

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