The Frog and the Tiger: Hmong animation for children

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“For the first time in Hmong history, an original Hmong animated feature [with] friends, culture, battle, [and] danger. Split Horn Studios Presents: The Frog and the Tiger July 2006.”

These are the words that are spread across the screen between short peeks into a world where frogs, tigers, monkeys and other animals speak, dress and live like the Hmong in the 3 minute and 14 second trailer for the animated feature The Frog and the Tiger.

Cheng Xeng Vue, of Morganton, North Carolina, is the creator, animator, writer and director for The Frog and the Tiger. He started the production in June of 2005, working on it part-time during the week and full-time on the weekends.

Vue’s fascination for animation developed when he was a child watching classics like Transformers, Voltron and Thundercats and then grew with him as he crossed over into the world of Japanese Anime. However, he explains that his inspiration for creating this film did not grow out of any particular animation he had viewed, but rather that it came out of the struggles he faced with trying to instill the values and traditions of the Hmong culture in his own two children.

He developed a growing concern for the preservation of the language and culture concluding that, “I waited for someone to create [a cartoon] for my children to watch because they don’t want to speak Hmong, but I haven’t seen any. I decided to create my own movie for my children and to share with the next generation of Hmong children.”

Considering his concern, Vue created Split Horn Studios to incorporate the Hmong language and culture into animated cartoons that will appeal to Hmong children that have lost the ability to speak the language and the desire to learn about the culture.

Split Horn Studios’ first attempt to do this happens with Little Frog and friends as they journey into the Dark Forest to find three special items requested by the village shaman (also a frog) to complete the requirements for a ritual necessary to save Little Frog’s mother. During their journey, Little Frog and friends will meet many dangerous obstacles, including a Tiger that is determined to have frog legs for dinner and pursues Little Frog throughout the Dark Forest.

There is a certain level of amusement in seeing an elderly frog shaman tell a little frog boy that the source of his mother’s illness is because she has “poob plis lawm os” (lost her spirit). There are definitely lessons on culture that have been cleverly weaved into this story and, as Vue has sought out to do, children and adults will be captivated and influenced by this animated film.

Along with Winsor McCay, the creator of the first animated feature film in 1918 and Walt Disney, the creator of the first animated feature film with sound in 1937, Cheng X. Vue will make history when he releases the first Hmong animated feature film promised to be available in July 2006.

Clips of The Frog and the Tiger can be seen on the trailer at “www.split-hornstudios.com”:http://www.split-hornstudios.com.

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