Lately, it is difficult not to pay attention to a short drama called "Escape from the British Museum (逃出大英博物馆)". The story is not complicated. Hanfu blogger and short drama expert, Xiatian Meimei (夏天妹妹), plays a small jade teapot (Chinese twining pattern thin-walled jade teapot) that has escaped from the British Museum and ends up on the streets. She encounters Zhang Yongan, a journalist from China (played by Jianbing Guozai, 煎饼果仔), who helps her return to China and complete the task entrusted to her by the Chinese cultural relics in the British Museum.
Since the release of the trailer, this short drama has received full attention. Immediately after two episodes were released, it sparked discussions across various Chinese online platforms. After the release of its final episode, which within just 4 hours has already garnered over 2 million likes on Douyin.
Creativity, sincerity, and controversy
The idea for "Escape from the British Museum" originated from a comment made by a user on Douyin. In January 2023, travel blogger "Betty" uploaded a video of Chinese cultural relics she had filmed at the British Museum on Douyin. Subsequently, another user left a comment expressing their hope for an animation where personified artifacts escape from the British Museum and return home for Chinese New Year.
The works personifying cultural relics is not uncommon now. As early as 2018, cultural program "National Treasure" introduced a series featuring personified cultural relics and invited artists to depict them as human-like characters. The renowned documentary "Every Treasure Tells a Story" also employed personification as a narrative strategy to give ancient artifacts modern expression outlets.
Adding onto this foundation of personified artifacts with an additional premise of "escaping from the British Museum," easily strikes at Chinese people's deep-rooted concerns about lost cultural heritage and resonates with audiences. Therefore, this comment quickly received tens of thousands of likes.
Subsequently, this imaginative concept was picked up by many vloggers and gained even wider dissemination. At the end of January, short drama expert "Jianbing Guozai" saw it and had the idea to turn it into a video. On August 27th, the first video trailer for "Escape from the British Museum" was released, immediately sparking widespread discussion, with many netizens even praising its cinematic quality.
The creator Jianbing Guozai stated that during his research process and scriptwriting, he realized that this subject matter could not be compromised. Therefore, he not only went to England for on-location shooting but also traveled across various provinces in China. Xiatian Meimei also mentioned in a post that throughout the entire filming process, there were only herself, Jianbing Guozi, and two assistants present. Jianbing Guozai devoted himself to learning the language of cinematography and photography techniques in order to make the final product more perfect.
From conception to release, "Escape from the British Museum" took over half a year to complete its three episodes. During this time period, both Jianbing Guozai and Xiatian Meimei ceased their regular content production for three months and wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to creating this video. In an industry known for emphasizing low cost and high efficiency when it comes to short videos, such sincerity is enough to move many short video viewers. Therefore, almost all comments in the comment section are filled with praise.
If we were to compare "Escape from the British Museum" with industry standards in the film and television industry, it is clear that its level of completion falls short. The creators of "Escape from the British Museum" astutely chose a subject matter that few have explored, elevating themselves conceptually and setting themselves apart from other short dramas. Even though there are still shortcomings, being able to tap into the popularity of this subject matter can be considered a skill.
Volume, Influence, and Popularity
"Escape from the British Museum" consists of three episodes with respective durations of 2 minutes 43 seconds, 4 minutes 39 seconds, and 9 minutes 38 seconds. Looking at several other works on both creators' profiles reveals that individual episodes usually do not exceed two minutes; thus this series demonstrates an obvious increase in volume.
Its smaller scale also means that the storyline will not be too convoluted: The first episode depicts an accidental encounter between two individuals on the street; the second focuses on their daily interactions in England; and finally, in the third episode, Zhang Yong'an helps Xiaoyuhu return to China to fulfill her mission.
Compared to other fast-paced short dramas with dramatic twists and turns, "Escape from the British Museum" does not possess such highly fluctuating storylines nor does it end with what most people would anticipate - a collective escape by cultural relics.
However, despite its small volume and relatively thin plotline, this does not hinder its wide reach. As of September 1st on Douyin's hottest short drama ranking chart, "Escape from the British Museum" ranks first with a heat score of 7.57 million views. On other social media platforms as well, "Escape from the British Museum also generates considerable discussion.
To date, the total numberof views for the three episodes on Douyin has exceeded 250 million, and the related hashtag has reached a staggering 1.13 billion views. Both co-creators, Jianbing Guozai and Xiatian Meimei, have gained over five million followers across all platforms.
After "Escape from the British Museum" went viral, numerous netizens began coming up with creative ideas related to cultural relics such as making cakes in the shape of Yuan Blue and White porcelain or creating videos where cultural relics are personified through hanfu costumes. Celebrity Lou Yixiao even released a video featuring anthropomorphized cultural relics from the British Museum which was well-received by many netizens.
Clearly, "Escape from the British Museum" seized upon the trend of popular content and further increased its influence through interaction with users. In doing so, it transformed its small scale into a highly-discussed short drama that became a major topic of conversation.