Conventional studies of the Chinese Cultural Revolution usually come from a human-centered perspective that focuses on politics, revolution, and class struggle dramatized in well-established artistic forms such as literature, live-action film, theater, and painting. This kind of approach is presence-centered by drawing attention to the most visible scenarios under the revolutionary limelight at that time. In contrast, this article calls attention to what was invisible in the much-discussed cultural scene: how animals were represented and underrepresented in animation, a marginalized artistic form. Animation, like fairytale, fable, and parable, is usually an artistic form of fantasy full of (talking) animals. Prior to the Cultural Revolution, animated film was replete with (anthropomorphic) animals. As animated film began to be dominated by politicized human action in the mid-1960s, animals systematically disappeared from the silver screen until the late 1970s. The Chinese Cultural Revolution can therefore be redefined as a decade of absent animals. However, these animals did not vanish completely during the Cultural Revolution; rather they took refuge in the bodies of ethnic minorities and villains, waiting for opportunities to return, seek revenge, and talk back. The disappearance of animals in the mid-1960s marked the start of the Cultural Revolution but also paved the way for its own ideological demise. When the wrathful animals returned to the screen in the late 1970s, the seemly impregnable ideology of the Cultural Revolution gradually disintegrated.

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