Could America Ever Love Moomin?

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!

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21 thoughts on “Could America Ever Love Moomin?

  1. Have you liked them since you were a child? I ask because I don’t really “get” them as an adult and I’m not sure if that’s just because I just don’t get them, or because it’s easier to get “into” something when you’re younger, if that makes sense! I think the US is generally wary of anything that isn’t actually American, although jolly British things like Downton Abbey are also acceptable.

    • To be honest, I’m not sure I fully appreciated Moomin as a child and didn’t really get ‘into’ Moomin until I was working in Japan (a sister city project with Helsinki). And it’s the comics that surprised me–aside from appreciating the style of drawing, something about the way of the Moomins resonated with me and the comics are quite funny. I agree about the US, though it’s funny because the entire country (even the mainstream) is made up of former ‘imports’.

  2. I recently read Moomin for the first time at the behest of my American friend. I always had this idea of Moomin as being ‘for kids’ because it’s cute and very whimsical looking, but actually it’s pretty smart and satirical.

  3. Here’s my two cents, from USA. I love Moomins. I met them in my ‘adulthood’ through Postcrossing. Thank you for that, Finland. I ordered a book, and LOVE LOVE it. I shared it in our elementary school. I was SO delighted to visit my GREAT niece, and see that she has Moomin-Love already. (So it might be catching on two generations behind me…)

    I think they haven’t caught on because of American merchandising. If Disney does Moomins, we will have Moomins everywhere (see the recent Disney pick up of Totoro, and of course what Disney brought to Pooh). EVERYONE knows the Disney Pooh. I’m not sure anyone would recognize Milne’s.

    Disney likes the broad-spectrum characters: film, video game, plushies, characters, pencils, video, songs, and rides… Moomins are just so sweet and flat, and maybe the owners of Tove Jansson’s estate are sensible enough not to let Disney redesign them into some kind of elaborate product line.

    Thanks for sharing your Moomins.

  4. When my son was watching from TV Moomins, I noticed that in them there is no violence. Nowadays violence is everywhere.

    Here are some photos from the town where the Moominworld is:

    Naantali

    In this my post there are also some Moomins characters on windows.

    Have a lovely day!

  5. Actually, Moomin is still being released in the USA. Chronicle recently acquired the license, and they’re releasing Moomin merchandise to reintroduce it to the Americans. In 2009, the DS game The Mysterious Howling was released in the USA.
    I myself am a Canadian and I remember seeing Moomin on a local French-language TV or something like that.

  6. Pingback: Finland in Finnish Popular Culture, Part II: The Moomins and Global Popular Culture | Historical Archaeology in Finland

  7. Hello,
    I’m currently doing research for my undergraduate dissertation and would really appreciate it if you could spend a couple of minutes filling in a short questionnaire about the MOOMINS 🙂 It is completely anonymous and you can do it online at http://tolu.na/XDGedL
    Thanks for your time,
    Jenni Sjölund

  8. Pingback: Moomins in Hawaii | Catastrophic Findings

  9. the 2008 Moomins series is available on Netflix for streaming in the US
    Now if only
    1. We get the 1990 anime available for streaming
    2. We get a English dub of the anime film “Comet in Moominland”

  10. I remember watching this as a kid, it was dubbed to Arabic (A lot of old Japanese animes were dubbed to Arabic) and I don’t remember much of it, I remember really liking the art and the characters but some of them really creeped me out.
    I was actually just talking to a friend about them and some of the characters (like the purple ghost looking one and ice queen) really scared her.
    So I thought I might as well go ahead and rewatch it and now I see why it scared me, it has a beautiful message but it scared me a bit, so far I’ve only watched the first episode where Ameen (the main moomin I don’t know his name in English) hid under the hat him and his friend found on top of the mountain and it morphed him into this purple hairy creepy creature, and then when he hugged his mom after she recognized him he slowly started to morph back, like you actually see the process of him morphing back and I see how that would freak me out as a kid. I remember watching this episode as a kid but I think I completely blocked out the purple creature transformation part.

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