Vietnam: Nation’s animation still has plenty of opportunities for growth

Despite more than 60 years of growth, Vietnamese animation has not met the development potential and audience expectations.

While veteran filmmakers are concerned that Vietnam animation productions still have many limitations, the young are confident about the creative ability of Vietnamese cartoonists.

Vietnamese animation began 63 years ago with the establishment of the Viet Nam Doll Animation Studio (now the Viet Nam Animation Studio) on Nov. 9, 1959.

Since the very first production, Dang Doi Thang Cao (It Serves the Fox Right!), the industry has about 800 films with a current production scale of 17-18 films per year.

Many of those are favorites of audiences, including Quai Vat Rung Xanh (The Jungle’s Monster), Bi Mat Cua Nhung Dua Tre (The Children’s Secret), Truyen Thuyet Guom Than (The Legend of Sacred Sword), Nguoi Anh Hung Ao Vai (The Hero in Brown Robe), Cau Be Co Lau (The Boy Holding the Reed Flag), Vuong Quoc Banh Keo (The Confectionery Kingdom).

According to the General Director of the Viet Nam Animation Studio Joint Stock Company, People’s Artist Pham Ngoc Tuan, every year, the company receives about 20 movie orders from the State. The movies are on diversified topics, from history to fairy tales, that are interesting and educational for children.

To promote their productions, alongside competing at Vietnam’s biggest movie award, the Golden Kite, the studio also presented their movies in regional film festivals or uploads to YouTube to access more audiences.

In the summer of 2022, the studio hosted a free animation movie program for children at the National Cinema Centre in Hanoi.

Despite their effort in promoting their animated movies, it is a fact that many productions could be more attractive to viewers.

According to some insiders, it’s obsolescence in thinking and developing the content. Many film scripts follow the same path when the topic of legends and fairy tales is exploited repeatedly. There is also a lack of creativity in cartoon drawing and the personality of cartoon characters.

Many films include educational lessons but in a dogmatic way that is unsuitable for children’s perception nowadays.

However, the animation market has been considered a ‘rich soil’ for animated filmmakers and film distribution companies.

While Hollywood animated movies such as “Ice Age,” “Kungfu Panda,” “Batman,” and “Spiderman” are always the highest-grossing at the Vietnamese box office at the time of their launches, Vietnamese productions can only be shown for free in designated programs. Not a single Vietnamese animated film has been eligible for cinema release.

Not to mention modern film technology and the attractiveness of the script, all the Vietnamese animations haven’t met the requirement of the 60-minute length, the minimum length to be screened in the cinema.

According to the deputy director of the Cinema Department, Ly Phuong Dung, most of the films produced by Vietnam’s animation studios have a length of only 10-15 minutes. A few are 30 minutes long.

Tuan, General Director of the Viet Nam Animation Studio Joint Stock Company, also admitted that most films produced by the studios are about 8-10 minutes long, and the longest is about 30 minutes. He said there are no movies long enough to be shown in the cinema.

Chairwoman of the Viet Nam Association for the Promotion and Development of Cinematography, Ngo Phuong Lan, said that to have quality animated films that can conquer the market, it’s necessary to have talented filmmakers who can lead the Vietnamese animation industry.

Currently, there are some private-owned animation studios that, with their talented human resources, can create diversified products. These studios also have regular and close cooperation with foreign partners.

Sconnect, a private animation studio, is a good example. The studio created Wolfoo, a set of cartoon characters, and released it on YouTube in June 2018.

Currently, the content channels about this character have 2,700 episodes, attract 50 million followers, and have been translated into 17 languages globally. Wolfoo also achieved 3 Diamond Play buttons and dozens of Gold & Silver Play buttons on YouTube.

Another “rising star” of Vietnamese animation is DeeDee Animation Studio, who has worked with several big animation companies such as Colory Animation, Sun Wolf Animation Studio, and Freaky Motion.

In a recent workshop on “Animation Production Capacity in Viet Nam,” co-founder and manager of DeeDee Animation Studio Le Quynh Nhu said her studio has a crew of talented animators who are at the same level as leading animation creators.

The proof is that DeeDee Animation Studio has long been a partner with several other global studios, such as Shin-Ei Animation (creators of the series “Doraemon,” “Crayon Shin-chan”), TMS Entertainment (creators of the series “Detective Conan”), and Walt Disney Animation Studio.

“The cooperation with those companies is evidence of the quality of our Vietnamese artists. Therefore, it must be affirmed that our potential and resources are abundant that can help us move and go further abroad,” Nhu said.

Founder and CEO of Sconnect, Ta Manh Hoang, also said that Vietnam has great advantages, such as abundant resources of talented artists.