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Panda and the Magic Serpent
The Tale of the White Serpent Poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed by Taiji Yabushita [ja]
Kazuhiko Okabe
Produced by Hiroshi Ôkawa
Written by Taiji Yabushita
Shin Uehara
Narrated by Marvin Miller
Starring Hisaya Morishige
Mariko Miyagi
Virginia Blackman
Lisa Lu
George Matsui
Jodie McDowell
Miiko Taka
Mel Welles
Music by Chuji Kinoshita
Cinematography Takamitsu Tsukahara
Editing by Shinataro Miyamoto
Distributed by Toei Animation
Release date(s) October 22, 1958 (1958-10-22)
Running time 78 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Panda and the Magic Serpent (白蛇伝, Hakujaden), also known as The Tale of the White Serpent, is the first color anime feature film, released in 1958. It was one of the first three anime films to be released in America, under the title Panda and the Magic Serpent, premiering in 1961, the month after Magic Boy. It is also known variously as Legend of the White Snake, The Great White Snake and The White Snake Enchantress. In April 2019, a restored version of the film was selected to be shown in the Cannes Classics section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.


Anime Monument of the anime movie "Hakujaden" at Nerima Station Tokyo
Landmark at Nerima City, Tokyo

The film is essentially an adaptation of the Song Dynasty Chinese folktale "Legend of the White Snake" (白蛇傳). Shin Uehara adapted the folktale and kept the Chinese-style characters and names. The decision of a Chinese story being used as the concept blueprint came from Toei president Hiroshi Ōkawa, who wanted to strike a tone of reconciliation with the Asian neighbors.

Given the point in time, the film pushed Japanese animation technology to the limit. The film was a large scale major project, involving a total of 13,590 staff; surprisingly, it only took eight months to finish. And while the film received honors at the Venice Children's Film Festival in Italy in 1959, it was regarded as a disappointment when released to the United States on March 15, 1961 by Global Pictures. Historically, this film marked Tōei Dōga's first attempt to follow the example of American feature animation studios and become the so-called "Disney of the east."

The US version made changes to the film such as interpreting the small red panda, Mimi, as a cat. In addition, all traces of the Japanese production teams were removed from the credits.

Rintaro, who would later go on to become a well known and respected director of Japanese animation, had his first job in the animation industry (at age 17) as an in-between animator on this film.


Xu-Xian, a young boy, once owned a pet snake in West Lake until his parents forced him to give her up. Years pass and during a violent storm, the snake magically transforms into the beautiful princess Bai-Niang. Bai-Niang finds Xu-Xian, but the lovers are separated by a local monk, Fa-Hai, who believes that Bai-Niang is an evil spirit. Xu-Xian's two panda pets, Panda and Mimi, try to find Xu-Xian. In the end, Bai-Niang gives up her magical powers and remains in human form to prove that her love for Xu-Xian is genuine.


Character Japanese voice actor English dubbing actor
Xu Xian Hisaya Morishige George Matsui
Bai Niang Mariko Miyagi Lisa Lu
Xiaoqing Mariko Miyagi Miiko Taka
Panda Hisaya Morishige Fernando Tejeda
Mimi Mariko Miyagi Virginia Blackman
Fahai Hisaya Morishige Mel Welles
Duck Mariko Miyagi Jodie McDowell
Weasel Mariko Miyagi Sara Meric
Dragon King Hisaya Morishige Bob Neuman
Catfish King Hisaya Morishige
Narrator Hisaya Morishige Marvin Miller
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