Meet Thu Vu Kim Nguyen aka Kimberley
She’s not rolling with the Disney princesses. Her favorite Disney animation is The Little Mermaid “because Ursula is the best villain. She wants something and she goes after it, plus the Ursula animation is incredible.”
Kim is very much like Ursula. She sees something she wants and she goes after it, no matter where it takes her.
Thu Vu Kim Nguyen aka Kimberley is now a VFX Compositor for Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. She’s also one of my neighbors and one of the people I have gotten to know in a neighborhood Facebook group. How lucky are we to have such a creative spirit in the neighborhood!?
Kim grew up in Vietnam going to the neighbor’s house with her sister to watch cartoons on the neighbor’s black and white TV, before her family got their own television. She watched shows from the Soviet Union like Nu Pogodi!, the Adventures of Buratino, and Hedgehog in the Fog. The fun stories and colorful pictures entertained her though she didn’t understand the languages.
One of Kim’s fondest memories growing up in Vietnam is of her father renting a VHS player for her 5th birthday party. He brought home Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. The story is about two sisters who take care of each other while the mother is recovering from an illness and the father is away a lot. Kim remembers the story fondly because she herself has a sister who she is very close to.
Fortunately Kim’s parents are alive and well and supportive of her creative career. Growing up Kim’s parents encouraged her and her sister to study abroad, so leaving home in a big way was almost mandatory. Her sister, who is three years older, left home for the Netherlands. Kim left a few years later to study Animation at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, before completing an MFA in Animation at the University of California, Los Angeles in the USA. Kim’s parents, although supportive, were not expecting her to strive for a career in animation.
“Asian parents have high expectations, mom is a dentist dad is a pharmacist, so they wanted me to go into the medical field.”
But Kim loved animation. In animation, “anything can happen. Whatever you dream of I can make it happen and. I’ve tried all sorts of styles.”
It didn’t take long for her parents to see Kim’s enthusiasm for animation, so as long as she was happy, they would be happy for her. They said, “whatever makes you happy, we’ll be proud.”
When Kim was in middle school a group of French artists came to her class as part of a French-Vietnamese bilingual program she was a part of and showed the class how to create hand drawn animation frame by frame. It was her first experience making an animated film and the animation flame was stoked.
Kim is also a fan of the old Disney animation cels where you draw them by hand on animation paper, retrace them on the cels, then you paint in the colors, like Snow White. It’s a long painstaking process but the results are phenomenal.
Since graduating from the UCLA Film and Television program with an MFA in Animation, Kim’s dreams have come true. She has worked for the likes of Bix Pix Entertainment and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios. She’s worked on the shows SuperMansion, where a bunch of aging super heroes live in a house like Big Brother and Robot Chicken with its pop culture parodies, both shows being voiced by many talented actors. One of her favorite episodes of SuperMansions had the super heroes fighting pigs who were Nazis.
A talent for animation are only some of Kim’s skills. She has dabbled in stand up comedy, ostensibly to get over her fear of speaking in public, and she would like to create and write a television show. Considering she is flourishing in a country completely different from her country of birth, I’d say she’s pretty fearless.
Virtual Reality classes were offered for the first time during her final year at UCLA, and it turned out to be her favorite. The professor was supportive in helping Kim develop those skills. The class received support from Oculus and the professor introduced the students to the Oculus Launchpad. The program requested project ideas from students. Kim’s project was chosen and she had to build an interactive storybook in which she did all the drawings in VR. It was the story of a little girl who goes to a restaurant to eat noodles with her father.
Check out the announcement of the Oculus Launchpad winners at Oculus Winners
The project became her thesis and now it’s available in the Oculus store. From that project she got a job at Vrenetic where she stayed for a year. Once Vrenetic pivoted to other projects apart from VR, Kim returned to Stoopid Buddy.
Kim believes in the power of VR to connect people with one another on an emotional level by using VR to allow people to use the five senses to experience another’s reality.
“Many issues we have in our society today came from a lack of understanding one another’s lives and backgrounds. The more we know, the more we can be open-minded to others’ way of living which could be completely different than ours.”
What better way to understand another human being than by walking in their shoes.
“Imagine instead of telling someone about an experience that I have, I can let them experience it themselves in VR. Whenever someone shares with me their childhood memory, I often wish that I could go back in time, be part of that story, and be able to feel the emotion resonated in their mind.”
Kim’s own project titled Hot Chocolate tells the story of a girl who had to adjust to her new environment after recently moving away from home. The one thing that gives her comfort is hot chocolate. On an excursion in her new city to get more, she has an encounter with one of her unhoused neighbors and it changes her perspective. Take a look at this award winning adorable piece of art at Hot Chocolate
Kim’s second project is a satire of wealth and domestic life called, General Dupont Doing Laundry. It’s a short film using CGI animation in which an 18th century aristocrat does laundry on a theatre stage. The project was featured in several festivals. Enjoy this quality work General Dupont
As heart warming as Hot Chocolate is, Kim has a preference for NSFW animation, so look out. From the Tumble Leaf kids show to Robot Chicken on Adult Swim, Kimberley Nguyen’s taste in animation is eclectic and subversive.Let’s see what she comes up with next. Check out her work at www.fatcatrolling.com