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What If Disney Fairy Tales Took Place in Vietnam? A Local Illustrator Wonders.

Cinderella, Snow White and The Little Mermaid are all iconic animated characters whose imagery has left a strong impression on generations of children. What if these stories, popularized by Disney cartoons, took place in Vietnam?

This hypothetical situation was the impetus behind graphic designer Kris Nguyễn’s visual project, “What if famous storybook characters were Vietnamese?" In eight painstakingly created illustrations, Kris remade scenes from the Disney fairy tale classics with costumes, architecture and historical details of Vietnam.

The Little Mermaid.

“I spent two months to complete this project using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Each piece needs around one week to carry out,” he shares with Saigoneer. They all go through processes of idea brainstorming, sketching, adjustment, and finalization. It might sound simple, but he admits striking a balance between bringing them into the Vietnamese context and keeping the original essence was quite challenging. He had to dedicate time researching commonalities between the source material and Vietnamese culture.

“I specifically chose to dress characters in Nguyen-era costumes both because this period has the richest wealth of academic reference and also because the period had the strongest influence from western cultures,” Kris says. He tried to retain as much of the original figures’ personality as possible: “For example, Rapunzel is a little cheeky and defiant, as shown through her neck accessory — something that can be seen in French-style outfits in southern Vietnam at the time.”

According to Kris, the project was born of the knowledge he learned from the oeuvre of Mai Trung Thứ and Lê Phổ, two of Vietnam’s most important painters in modern times: “Mai Trung Thứ and Lê Phổ are representative of Vietnamese art during the early modern period. There was a major cultural exchange with Europe, so their works were eastern paintings with elements of western art practices.” As a fan of the masters' style, he has always sought to emulate the same intermingling of cultures in his creative works.


After the illustrations were published, some netizens commented that objects like roses, the apple, and ribbons featured in the posters could be made “more Vietnamese.” However, Kris believes that, because of the choice of era, when Vietnam experienced an influx of foreign cultural artifacts, those details not only stay true to local life, but also to the spirit of the Disney stories.

Kris Nguyen shares that he’s very content with how the project came out: “For me, each piece has its own narrative and can inspire visual interest.” At the moment, he’s working on other initiatives to help promote traditional customs and costumes to young Vietnamese. “I wouldn’t rule out releasing other spontaneous works on fairy tales though,” he divulges.

Beauty and the Beast.


Sleeping Beauty.

Snow White.

[Images courtesy of Kris Nguyễn/Behance]

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