The film is essentially an adaptation of the Song dynasty folktale from Chinese mythology ‘Madame White Snake’. Shin Uehara adapted the folktale and kept the Chinese-style characters and names. 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.
‘The Tale of the White Serpent’ is credited with many ‘firsts’ in the animation world. Released in 1958 it is certainly the first colour feature length Japanese anime, if not the first ever feature length Japanese anime. It was also the first Japanese anime to be released in America, under the title ‘Panda And The Magic Serpent’. It is also known variously as ‘Legend of the White Snake’, ‘The Great White Snake’ and ‘The White Snake Enchantress’.