Growing up as a Vietnamese, the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival was considered a universal childhood experience. When the night of the full moon arrived, children would pour onto the streets for an evening of boisterous fun, calling on their friends to join in. Once all had gathered, we would roam the neighborhood in a follow-the-leader fashion, paper lanterns proudly held afloat in our little hands. Teary outbursts were to be expected, as every now and then a lantern would catch fire from the candle and be consumed by flames.
Are such memories still being created or have they been consigned to antiquity? With cellphones and social media being a huge distraction, it seems that the “Festival of Children" is no longer able to hold the interest of the youngsters themselves. Ask any 90s kid, engrossed in work and world affairs, if they still visit their parents on the Mid-Autumn night and the answer might surprise you.
As a bridge between the nostalgic past and modern days, The Tale of Cuội was created to illustrate the beauty of folk culture and make it appealing to the young through both traditional and contemporary lenses. For its 2020 rendition, The Tale of Cuội is returning as a collaboration between The Coffee House and Children Of (an in-house production studio by The Purpose Group).
Join us in conversation with Phu Vo (Marketing Director, The Coffee House), Trang Nguyen (Senior Marketing Manager, The Coffee House) and Do Dang Thuong (Creative Director, The Purpose Group) to marvel at the creative process behind The Tale of Cuội and learn how the collaborative effort of the two teams managed to unite everyone for a fuller Mid-Autumn experience.
What does the Mid-Autumn Festival mean to you personally? Has some of the significance of the season been lost throughout the years?
Trang Nguyen: Apart from the Lunar New Year celebrations, the Mid-Autumn Festival is another unique opportunity for families to reunite. I can distinctly remember how back when I was a kid, the Mid-Autumn Festival was a time when everyone in the family would gather round, and together we would enjoy the graceful moon and the delicious mooncakes, while children would merrily carry their lanterns.
Nowadays, occupied with the hustle of life, we no longer have the same excitement we once did. My children, too, lack the chance to experience an authentic Mid-Autumn Festival. Hence, I was urged to do something to recreate the season in all of its festive splendor for my little ones.
Do Dang Thuong: We call ourselves Mid-Autumn enthusiasts for a reason! We believe in staying true to the Mid-Autumn spirit that is worth sharing with everyone. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the Festival of Children, but kids these days don't seem to be that interested in paper lanterns anymore. And so we became determined to revive the festival, but not through bringing the old Mid-Autumn Festival back, but rather by creating a spiritual successor that can bring the message of the season closer to the younger generation.
Phu Vo: The Coffee House’s main demographics are young people, many of whom have told me that they're nostalgic about the Mid-Autumn Festival. As children, they were able to truly celebrate the holiday. Now that they're all facing the challenges of adulthood, coupled with the uncertainties from the pandemic, being able to simply sit down with your loved ones for a peaceful night has become a luxury. This urged us at the Coffee House to do something so that the Mid-Autumn nostalgia can be given a new, modern and inspirational twist.
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For those who are unfamiliar with the project, what is The Tale of Cuội and what’s the story behind it?
Do Dang Thuong: The Tale of Cuội started in 2018 as a project to create custom-made mooncake packaging for The Coffee House. Our first creation was a mooncake box set in the shape of a lantern. The name, “The Tale of Cuội”, was thrown up randomly in one of the meetings, and it stuck.
Believing that The Tale of Cuội has the potential to become something bigger, in 2019, The Purpose Group took the liberty to turn into a brand name and self-produced a music video. Everyone knows the story of Cuoi as "The Man on the Moon", but the team wanted to offer a fresh take on the classic and retell it in a brand new way.
Directed by Le Huy Anh (Executive Creative Director of The Purpose Group), The Tale of Cuội 2019 music video fuses contemporary elements such as experimental 3D animation and a remix of Mid-Autumn anthem “Thang Cuoi”.
This year marks the start of the official collaboration between The Coffee House and The Tale of Cuội where we assemble to deliver the Mid-Autumn Festival in a way never seen before.
What values do The Tale of Cuội and The Coffee House both share?
Phu Vo: Since the beginning, our aspiration has been to be not just a “House of Coffee", but also a “House of Inspiration". Inspiration that is rooted in creativity and community.
Through our partnership with The Tale of Cuội, The Coffee House was able to show our support for the creative community, allowing them to unleash their imagination and create a unique Tale of Cuội universe through reimagining familiar characters such as Cuội, the Moon Goddess, Mr. Buffalo, Mr. Cricket, etc. And through showcasing the talent and artistic values of our creative community, we also bring Vietnamese folk culture closer to the world.
What is the message that The Coffee House wants to convey this Mid-Autumn season?
Trang Nguyen: The theme for this year is “trăng Nhà sung túc" (a House of Lunar Abundance), a wish from the Coffee House for a warm and complete Mid-Autumn Festival season. To deliver the complete holiday experience, we created a myriad of diverse products and activities such as cartoons, comics that utilize Augmented Technology (AR), mooncakes, beverages and toys.
What's the creative process behind the The Tale of Cuội x The Coffee House collaboration?
Do Dang Thuong: We started conceptualizing everything half a year ago and maintained constant communication to keep the message consistent.
We started building a universe comprising Cuội, the Moon Goddess, the Banyan Tree and the Pearl Rabbit, among other characters. The plot is that every Mid-Autumn season, Cuội and his friends must leave Saigon to visit their home at the Moon Palace. But this year, upon their return to Earth, something mysterious happened.
Trang Nguyen: We started planning everything very early with “Children Of” to execute the final design of the packaging. In particular, we embedded AR technology into The Tale of Cuội storybook to bring each page to life.
What are some of the memorable as well as challenging moments that you’ve had in the making of The Tale of Cuội?
Do Dang Thuong: The teams haven't had much experience using AR technology in storytelling. When we brought up the idea with our tech staff, we were told that we only had a 60% chance of success. The other 40% were an experiment that could fail. But, it was a risk that The Coffee House was willing to take so long as we were able to contribute to growing the creative community.
It's also the first year when we’ve had enough resources to fully commit to developing The Tale of Cuội. The Coffee House has given a chance for us artists of diverse expertise such as graphic design, multimedia design, packaging design, 3D design, and even game design, to unleash our creativity and manifest our ideas. I was extremely impressed with how the teams came and worked together to pull off a feat of this magnitude.
Lastly, how do you hope people will receive this year's message of “trăng Nhà sung túc" (a House of Lunar Abundance)?
Phu Vo: I hope that it will be warmly received for these three reasons.
Firstly, it’s a Vietnamese product. It's a noble attempt at reinventing Vietnamese folk culture and a creative expression of the Vietnamese people.
Secondly, through our highly interactive products we hope to create shared spiritual values to connect people during this season of union.
And lastly, we would like to thank those who have supported The Coffee House in our 5 years of operation. This product is an expression of our gratitude, and a promise to create even more special products in the upcoming years.
Do Dang Thuong: I hope that they will be able to experience an authentic Mid-Autumn Festival again. Everyone in the family can come together to watch The Tale of Cuội cartoon, enjoy a Coffee House mooncake, read our AR storybook, and play with the toys that we made.
And so, this Mid-Autumn festival, we wish that everyone would find themselves with a "trăng Nhà sung túc" (a House of Lunar Abundance)!