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Frames of Fantasy: A Deep Dive with DeeDee's Co-Founder/ Animation Director

Having been closely associated with DeeDee Animation Studio since its tentative first steps, Kiet Anh Doan can be considered one of studio’s most crucial pillars, deeply understanding and passionately committed to DeeDee. Let's peek behind the scenes of the story of the Co-Founder/ Animation Director behind the unique creative products of our Vietnamese animation studio!


Kiet Anh Doan


Job Title

Co-Founder

Animation Director


Based

Ha Noi, Vietnam


Project

Award-winning short film Awaken

Award-winning short film Broken Being: The Prequel

Disney's Mickey & Friends X CAMP: An Extra Big Adventure

DC's Justice League: Comics Chaos

Chimimo

How to Become a Cult Leader (Netflix Original Series)


Doorstep

Before joining the founding team of DeeDee Animation Studio, did you have any experience in the animation industry?

DeeDee Animation Studio is where I first officially ventured into the animation industry. Prior to that, I mainly worked on personal projects and animations for games.

So, what circumstances brought you to DeeDee Animation Studio?

I met Quang in 2016 through a mutual friend's introduction. At that time, Quang was looking for an animator for a short stick figure animation project. During our first meeting, we brainstormed ideas for that project and found ourselves in sync. Perhaps it was because we all wanted to create something more creative and interesting than the project's initial requirements. After the completion of the short animation project, I participated in several other projects with Quang as a freelancer. Finally, Quang and I officially established DeeDee Animation Studio in 2017


Route

Could you walk us through your creative process as a Co-founder/ Animation Director from concept to final product?

When creativity is mentioned, people often think of something groundbreaking, innovative, or novel, primarily related to product creation. However, for me, creativity also lies in problem-solving approaches. For instance, when performing a familiar task, instead of following routine or existing processes, I would ask questions like "Is there another way to do this?" or "Is this method more effective? Does it save time and effort?" etc. And in my position, such creativity permeates throughout the entire project.

Initially, upon receiving a project, I collaborate with the show director and storyboard artists to gain a deeper understanding of the story and the film's essence. Once I grasp these elements I research and select a suitable animation style. Then I brief and inspire the animators accordingly making sure that each scene, although executed by different individuals, seamlessly integrates without discrepancies.

It's crucial to strike a balance between directing performances according to the show director's vision and allowing room for animators to be creative in their own right. I am delighted when an animator deviates from the initial brief but delivers results that exceed expectations, often leaving me in awe when viewing their work.

Fortunately, DeeDee's projects encompass a variety of styles, which provides me and the team with opportunities to experiment with various animation techniques.

My expertise as Animation Director also involves finding the right balance between the animation style, the will to create a product that is interesting and appealing and the other requirements of the project such as time and budget. If our chosen quality standards exceed the other project's requirements, this will lead to delays, missed deadlines, and occasionally failing to meet initial expectations, which no one wants. Conversely, opting for an overly simple style may result in a lackluster project or leave animators feeling uninspired and unchallenged.



Could you discuss some of the biggest challenges you‘ve faced as a Co-founder/ Animation Director and how you have overcome them?

As an Animator, when assigned a project, I can explore, study, and perform in a way that suits me best, as long as it meets the quality output and timeline requirements.

However, as an Animation Director, the story no longer revolves around myself, my progress, my ability to meet job demands, and my achievements. The challenge now lies in managing a team with diverse individuals, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, knowledge backgrounds (in animation), and starting points, all working together on the same project, while ensuring both quality and project timeline are met. Perhaps this is the greatest challenge of this role, but it's also fulfilling, as with each unique project and team, flexibility is required to find suitable solutions. Every time we find a more optimal solution, both myself and the project team members experience growth and maturity.


According to you, what makes DeeDee Animation Studio unique compared to other studios in Vietnam?

Perhaps we're not aiming for uniqueness or standing out from the crowd. It's simply about dedicating our passion and creativity to the products we create, whether they are personal projects, TVCs, series, short films, etc. At DeeDee, we prioritize the products and strive for the highest possible quality. We use these products to refine and improve our processes and skills. We also appreciate the efforts of the Business team for tirelessly seeking quality projects that provide opportunities for everyone to engage in such work.

Can you highlight any particularly noteworthy projects of DeeDee that you have undertaken?

For me, each project at DeeDee holds its own memories and impressions. Perhaps the most memorable project is She Kings. The film tells the story of the Trưng Sisters, though it had its technical shortcomings, it was a time of creativity and experimentation for me. Moreover, I really liked the content.

Next is the animated series Chimimo, working with Shin-Ei Animation Studio from Japan. It was DeeDee's first time working with a studio that has decades in the industry under their belt. While we had creative freedom in performance, they were extremely meticulous in visuals, ensuring every frame, no matter how brief, was precise and beautiful. Subsequent projects have all accustomed us to such stringent quality control.


Compass

What emerging trends do you see influencing the future of animation, and how is your studio adapting?

The world is gradually becoming bored with traditional 3D films; instead, producers and audiences are intrigued by fresh concepts like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Arcane, Klaus (a 2D film resembling 3D), or The First Slam Dunk (using 3D to mimic 2D). These examples show efforts to blur the lines between 2D and 3D animation, enabling 2D films to surpass the limitations of manual methods and 3D to escape the rigidity of machinery. It's becoming common to see 2D FX animation in a 3D scene or a 2D character moving in a 3D environment. This integration is a trend, supported by technological advancements.

At DeeDee, we continuously update software, 2D and 3D technologies, while developing traditional animation knowledge and skills to integrate them sensibly into our films. In the future, we'll continue experimenting and advancing in this direction.

Additionally, recent films like "Pinocchio" by Guillermo del Toro or "The Boy and The Heron" by Hayao Miyazaki heavily reflect the directors' personal styles and have been both critical and commercial successes. This demonstrates that contemporary audiences are open to Art House-oriented productions. DeeDee aims to create highly personalized films, unrestricted by conventional molds in the future.


What advice would you offer to individuals aspiring to enter the animation industry in Vietnam?

Currently, it's a golden opportunity for those passionate about animation to seriously consider stepping into this industry. Studios and the animation community in Vietnam are moving towards high-quality animation, following international standards. DeeDee, like many other studios, is still actively seeking and creating opportunities to bring in more talented animators. With demand comes supply, and around you, there are many tools, tutorials, skilled individuals, etc., right here in Vietnam, for you to learn from and develop yourself.

Animation can start as a personal hobby, then you can experiment with various methods (traditional 2D, 2D puppet, 3D, stop motion, etc.) and choose what suits you best. There are many software options available for you to start animating immediately. If you like it, explore and try it out (Toon Boom, Moho, After Effects, Photoshop, Blender, paper, etc. - I even used Windows Movie Maker in the past to put together multiple images...).

However, alongside treating it as a hobby or instinct, when you truly want to enter this industry, it's essential to build a solid foundation of basic animation knowledge. With a strong foundation, it becomes easier and more flexible for you to learn new knowledge and styles.

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