Mike Nguyen is an animator and director whose credits include Beauty and The Beast, The Iron Giant, Space Jam and The Road to El Dorado. He has been working for some years on the independent animated film My Little World, which he has written and directed. FLIP asked Mike to explain what it takes to get such an ambitious personal project off the ground.
FLIP: You have been working for several years now on your independent animated feature film My Little World. Tell us a bit about the project.
Mike: My Little World is a hand-drawn theatrical feature film about the purity of innocence, the joy of living through simple day-life experiences and the very endearing warmth of true friendships. For me, such abstract and intricate experiences of feelings and emotions can be best conveyed through senses of motion - that is really what animation is wonderfully capable of.
The film is about a little boy who is very sad from the loss of a dear friend. He is sent by his parents to stay with his aunt in the country side for the summer, in the hope that a change of scenery may help him to overcome his sadness. There, he befriends the local town kids, and reluctantly gets drawn into the frenzies of their self-made summer soccer tournament. Being in the presence of very lively, unassuming and carefree friends, he slowly confronts his grief and learns to heal.
My Little World is very different from the mainstream animation in the content and texture of its storytelling. The film is aimed at children everywhere, and we treat the audience with respect and sincerity, avoiding the sugary and louder theatrical embellishments that are often major ingredients in mainstream animated films for children.
My Little World seeks to inspire a young audience to a world of harmony in family and community togetherness, with positive aspirations and affirmations to society and life in general. In this regard, the film has no villains or bad-mannered children. The child the film hopes to address is the child inside every living human being, regardless of age.
FLIP: What still needs to be done?
Mike: The film has been in production since 2000, progressing slowly (due to its independent nature) but very steadily, and continually being sharpened as time has passed. At this point, the story structure and foundation of the film is locked with 80% of rough animation completed. From here onward, we’re looking to further fine-tune the animation performances, putting the film into clean-up, effects, colors, final compositing and post-production. The music will be composed and performed by the world renowned Chilean group Inti-Illimani… I can’t wait for that day to come!
FLIP: Are you looking for investors to help finish it off?
Mike: Yes, we are looking for investors. This is an ongoing process until we finally connect to a source of funding that will enable us to complete the film. However, due to the nature of our film, finding investors who can see past the general commercial trend in children's animation has been difficult.
I think My Little World has very strong qualities for a successful commercial endeavor, based on the very family-friendly nature of its content, the very small total budget, and the strong animated performances we are able to achieve.
The problem has been that, although the budget of an indie animated film is very small compared to a studio film, it is still larger than a modest live-action production. And, to date, very few indie animated features from around the world have made their investment back, however small their budgets.
FLIP: When do you think we will be able to see My Little World in theatres?
Mike: At the current rate, we are carrying on production as best as we can without funding, knowing that we will arrive at our intended destination eventually. At this pace, we set a tentative deadline for ourselves of 2020. But hopefully we will connect with a funding source. If this were to happen then the remaining production would take just 16 months to complete.
FLIP: Is there anything that animation fans can do to help you out?
Mike: Please do hit a ‘like’ on our Facebook page, tell a friend about My Little World, and please keep us in mind when the film is release one day. We would be most grateful!
(Editor's note: for more information about independent animated film-making, read what Claus Toksvig has to say about producing independent animated films, hear Nathan Erasmus explain how to get your project off the ground, and see what Paul Harrison has to say about financing animated TV Series.)