Moomins have a lucrative niche publishing and licensing market predominantly in Nordic countries, Japan and of course Britain. But why haven’t Moomins entered the American market? I’m tempted to give a simple answer by linking this back to a question I posed a few posts ago and say it’s because Americans are (generally perceived to be) stupid and will never understand Moomin, but that wouldn’t be fair.
Obviously it has more to do with business marketing and not level of intelligence but if other countries, all unique in their own accord, can love Moomin why can’t America? Moomin books were sold in the U.S. half a century ago but the firm currently has no licensees and animations have aired only in Hawaii. It is rumoured that there was once a Moomin Shop in Honolulu, which opened around 2008 but that has since closed.
In Japan, Moomin plays into a cultural appreciation for cute (kawaii) things and Japanese adults will without hesitation buy as much as a child will. There is no shame in expressing how cute something is, whether if you’re male or female. Why should there be? In addition, Japan has always embraced foreign culture and is known for adopting what it likes and making it their own, not to mention evidence in all the foreign loan words incorporated into modern Japanese language.
Those points alone may explain exactly why Moomin still hasn’t taken America by storm. The Moomins are curious, bohemian, generous and may be a bit more eccentric than the American mainstream. They don’t use mobile phones and live simple lives, yet every day holds a new adventure. And as shows like American Idol and The Voice prove time and time again, if you’re quirky and different chances are you won’t be embraced by the masses. In terms of profit–you won’t be worth the risk.
Then there is the fact that Moomins are culturally different from current and historical American characters, such as Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh (yes, we know that classic Pooh is originally British but we refer to Disney’s Americanised animation of the cuddly honey loving bear), both in the way they look and the content of their stories. Disney is mainly marketed toward children. Whereas the stories from Moominvalley are not all suited to children. Foreign things, people, or food have never been readily welcomed by mainstream America. Accepted, perhaps after modification, but never quite in its authentic form.
It seems there are Moomin fans in the U.S. but they must search high and low to keep up to date with the latest Moomin goods and news. So could America ever love Moomin? I’m not confident that it could, though I would love if one day everyone in the world could grow to love the Moomins. The world would certainly be a better place!