Vietnamese cartoons yearning for public recognition

Despite the importance of the cartoon genre in the seventh art and its attractive financial value, Vietnamese cartoons have not won the admiration of the public yet, even though the potential domestic human resources are quite huge.

Despite winning an international award, Vietnamese cartoons are not able to come out in cinemas
Despite winning an international award, Vietnamese cartoons are not able to come out in cinemas

Statistics have shown that the annual cinema revenues in Vietnam from cartoons are truly impressive, always being in the top-10 hottest films. This means the type has a very promising market, targeting at various age groups.

Sadly, this playground is still solely dominated by foreign animated movies like Incredibles 2, Frozen, Kung Fu Panda, or Coco. The few domestic cartoons are not truly welcomed in movie theaters, and are mostly delivered free in media channels.

According to Ms. Tran Thi Thu Hien, President of Vietnam Animation Joint Stock Co., her organization produces 16 to 17 cartoons per year, mostly to answer the demands of the government.

The severest difficulty at the moment, as stated by Ms. Hien, is the outdated animation production technology and equipment. In addition, in the last 4 years, the budget for this film genre has been temporarily halted due to unsuitable film laws.

To amend the situation, Vietnam Animation Joint Stock Co. has to seek other financial aids, and certain products like Angel Wings, Emperor Nguyen Hue, or Bi’s Journey have been released. However, these cartoons are too weak to come out in cinemas. They are only broadcasted on television or YouTube.

The release of a 4-episode cartoon ‘Monta in the Odd Galaxy’ by a private film producer in 2018 marked an important milestone to this market, since this is the first time a private business has volunteered to spend money on cartoons despite very discouraging revenues, said People’s Artist Dang Nhat Minh.

The premiere of this animated movie is considered a huge step to make the dream of distributing domestic cartoons in cinemas come true. Unluckily, after that memorable premiere, nothing else happens.

At present in Vietnam, besides private film producers, several cartoon lover groups such as Colory Animation, Bamboo Animation, Smile - AD or Doan Gia Film, DeeDee Animation Studio are investing in creating short cartoons and sharing experience. These clips, when distributed online, attracted a large number of views.

Nevertheless, experts in the field commented that this trend is merely spontaneous, with a product limited to around 10 minutes, and hence is not suitable for cinema screening.

The good news is that one of the above groups – the DeeDee Animation Studio – has just received a notice from KHEM Animation Film Festival (the US) regarding its cartoon series named Tan The – the Sequel. Accordingly, this cartoon has won the Best 2D Cartoon Award and will be widely broadcasted in many TV channels like HallMills Network Channel, Roku TV and BlackScifi TV. Ironically, these films are still not eligible for national film awards like Golden Kite Prize of the Vietnamese Cinema Association or Golden Lotus Awards of the Vietnam Film Festival.

The footprints of many talented Vietnamese artists, graphic designers, sound technicians in foreign cartoon blockbusters have clearly demonstrated the possibility of domestic animated movie development. Obviously, with a lack of focus on creativity as well as a deep-rooted prejudice that cartoons are merely to educate children, it will be a long time before Vietnamese cartoons can be widely accepted in cinemas.