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The kids cannot stop laughing and the parents love it.

Since it was released on May 22 on Youtube, Duoi bong cay (Under the trees), a seven-minute cartoon has became a great hit among Vietnamese netizens, and sparked new hopes among local animators and cartoon-lovers.

The cartoon tells a very simple story featuring the Mouse, the Frog, the Crab and the Snake.

The protagonist is a smug mouse who fancies himself as a hero because of the ring of bravery he inherited from his ancestors. When a snake attacks them, the frog is undaunted because he has the super hero mouse as his friend. He stands his ground, only to realize seconds later that his friends have fled in fear. He tries to flee as well, but is captured by the snake and the rat's ring is lost in the process. A few twists and turns later, the rat gets lucky and the frog is freed.

The cartoon closes with the rat making full use of his bragging rights, but there is a hint that more challenges could lie ahead.

With nearly 325,000 hits in about  a week, the short animation film has won kudos galore from viewers for the story about true grit and friendship, a coherent plot, the characters' adorable graphic depictions, lovely narration, bright colors and good three-dimension effects have drawn their special attention.

One parent said his five-year-old daughter saw it again and again till she knew the dialogue in it by heart. Another said if the makers of this clip were to release something bigger in a theater, his family would be among the first customers.

The most interesting thing about the cartoon is that it is created by a group of seven young animators, aged 18-28, who call themselves Colory. Most of the members are young students from Hong Bang University's animation department who share a great passion for cartoons.

Education, not entertainment

Colory, a group of seven young animators aged 18-28, share a great passion for cartoons.

Eight-year-old girl Bich Ngoc, fed on a diet of cartoons by Nickelodeon or Disney channels, not to mention computer-generated image (CGI) animated marvels like Ice Age, Megamind and Kungfu Panda, has never taken a fancy to Vietnamese cartoons.

"A long time ago, I saw some short Vietnamese cartoons on local channels. They were about an animal like a rabbit, turtle, fox or wolf, but they were not cute. I do not know how to explain it but I did not like them."

While parents do want cartoons to educate their children, they also expect them to be funny and entertaining.  

Thanh Cong, a young father, said that typical Vietnamese cartoons pay too much attention to conveying lessons explicitly instead of letting the kids absorb it themselves.

"The joy must precede the lesson. They are kids, they will always laugh before think. And the kids do not want to be pushed to learn and understand dogma."

Doan Tran Anh Tuan, head of Colory, which was founded in 2009 with the name "Unlimited group", said that it took his team nearly five months to finish the animated cartoon that was his and Nguyen Hoa Thanh's graduation thesis.

"We wanted to form a group making CGI cartoons when we were in high school, but this field needs more passion than technique. In Vietnam, there are many people who have good 3D skills, but they usually build their career in a foreign company for high salaries."

"We have released Duoi bong cay as a gift for kids on the International Children's Day (June 1), not to make profit. We will be glad if other young people join our team to make great cartoons for our little brothers and sisters" said Tuan.

Tuan said Duoi bong cay is not Colory's first product. It was a one-minute demo clip titled Hot vit lon (The balut) released two years ago. The demo is about an unborn duck's escape from the egg to see the world.  

Making demo clips and animating some Vietnamese fairy tales are Colory's targets now.

Graphic depiction of the characters of Duoi bong cay (Under the trees)

Tuan said he and his team believe that their attempts will bring fresh charge to the local animation industry.

"Vietnam has many famous animators, companies, and talented cartoon artists, so we do not have to be desperate about the future of the industry. Colory, with young and impassioned members, will be part of its growth."

For all the praise that has been showered on Colory, there have been some who have cautioned against getting euphoric about it.

A 7-minute film cannot guarantee a bright future for a group, much less a national industry, they say.

"The film is nice, but we are waiting for a new true breakthrough. Making a very short interesting film is much easier than capturing the audiences' heart in something that is 90 minutes or more," one blogger commented.

But the youth at Colory are confident.

About 1,000 DVDs of Duoi bong cay are given to children at BHD Star Cinema on June 1 and 2 when they come to see "Kungfu Panda 2."

BHD Star Cinema also promotes Colory's good works by screening the film before every main show in the first week of June.

This is their first marketing step. The next project is a longer animation film called "Kids," featuring a local little boy with daily life troubles somewhere close to Ho Chi Minh City.  

After Duoi bong cay, hundreds of thousands of fans are waiting with bated breath.

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