With cell phone cameras now crisper and more powerful than ever before, it’s not uncommon for would-be filmmakers to actually shoot entire features on their iPhone. In fact, that’s exactly what happened with 2015’s Independent Spirit Award-winning Tangerine, which we deemed one of the best films of the year. It’s leveled the playing field that was once a barrier for untested talent, who used to have to rent expensive film or digital cameras just to attempt to get their story told. The world of animation, however, was still open only to those with some kind of budget, or the time it takes to animate things by hand, one frame at a time. This whole paradigm is changing, though, with the announcement that one of the top animating software programs in the world will soon be available for free and open sourced, according to Cartoon Brew.
Toonz, the program in question, has been used by many, but most famously by Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli, which began using the program with 1997’s Princess Mononoke. The software’s main function is its ability to blend different animation elements into one image, as Ghibli’s executive imaging director Atsushi Okui explained. They acquired the software back in ’95 to “continue producing theater-quality animation without additional stress,” also praising its ability to “combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly.” In fact, Ghibli has been so keen on the software that the OpenToonz version is being dubbed “Toonz Ghibli Edition,” because it will have all the bells, whistles, and modifications implemented by the famed Japanese studio.
It’s not just Studio Ghibli who has used the software. Since the Italian company Digital Video began producing the Toonz program in 1993, many productions have used it, including Futurama, the recent feature Phantom Boy, MTV’s weirdo 1993 show The Maxx, kids films Anastasia and Balto, and even computer games like Discworld 2.
The reason for OpenToonz, which will be available beginning March 26, is through a deal with the Japanese publisher Dwango. Digital Video will still develop and market new and improved versions of the software, and a “competitively priced” premium edition will also still be available for those who have the means necessary. However, if you don’t and you want to create your own animated films and shorts, you now have a solution. You’ll still need to be able to draw, of course.
What do you think of this development? Is this a game-changer in the animation field? Will you be taking part in OpenToonz? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t miss all the creepy fan theories about Studio Ghibli’s Totoro on The Dan Cave![brightcove video_id=”4245987399001″ brightcove_account_id=”3653334524001″ brightcove_player_id=”2bfa565b-5412-4cfd-9211-6269880b8a5e”]
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!