Unlike his colorful characters, filmmaker and designer Thinh Nguyen’s wardrobe is black, brown and grey. The furniture in his apartment is all white. He does though have a favorite pink turtleneck, which hints at the odd and unexpected slices of humor in his animated shorts.
Originally from Vietnam, Thinh moved to Denmark to study at The Animation Workshop where he’s currently completing a BA in Character Animation.
Whether he’s illustrating a character, a plate of food or a landscape looming large over a tiny house, Thinh’s subjects are reduced to their most basic forms. His characters begin as straightforward shapes, squares, triangles, circles which then sprout heads, loopy arms and black heeled boots to become the people who inhabit his 2D world.
He plays with proportion, giving them large bodies with long thin limbs, and their mechanical movements add to their humor and charm.
He downplays the artistic brilliance of his simplicity, claiming instead it’s down to sheer laziness. “I don’t like sitting and animating for too long,” he says, “so I always try to find a solution where I don’t have to do it. That’s why my animation style is so simple.”
When he’s working on a short film, most of his time is dedicated to the story behind the images. The movements are the supporting act to the narrative. “To me, good storytelling is when the audience can feel something; they’re either sad, joyful or scared. If they don’t feel anything then it’s probably not good enough.”
His one-minute film BYE begins as a skit starring a sweet and weird teapot-person, but becomes an insight into fatherhood capturing the mixed emotions felt when a child leaves the family home.
To me, good storytelling is when the audience can feel something; they’re either sad, joyful or scared. If they don’t feel anything then it’s probably not good enough.
Thinh’s style morphed gradually over the years from Disney princesses to manga to fashion illustration to modern cartoons as he taught himself to draw from various references. As a child he was into manga and anime, “like most of the Asian kids,” he says. “Then puberty hit and now I like modern art.”
The scenarios in Thinh’s work can seem bizarre – in one animated loop a man jumps hurdles on the back of a yellow dog (also wearing black boots) – but he says he takes inspiration from what happens in his own life. In Zipper, a woman unzips herself to reveal that she’s in fact the man she’s standing next to, he then does the same to show he is her as well. The exchange repeats in a continuous loop.
“I’m interested in exploring human behaviors,” he says. “The relationship between human beings with other human beings, and also with nature. I guess I just make stories about life, but in my own language.”
Words by Alix-Rose Cowie