How Japanese Animators Use Flash to Create Amazing TV Animation

pingpong-flashanimation

Science Saru, the new studio started by Japanese directors Masaaki Yuasa and Eunyoung Choi, has shared a behind-the-scenes look at how they used Flash in the recent TV series Ping Pong. Says the studio:

In this short video you can see the “insides” of two scenes we worked on for the show. Animators developed a new digital technique, in order to get slow movements, turnings and big zooms, that would have been very difficult in hand-drawn animation.

Yuasa and Choi haven’t reinvented the wheel. They have the same tools available to everyone else who has Flash—shape tweens, motion tweens, symbols—but they use those techniques to achieve results that don’t look anything like the cheap-looking product we tend to associate with the software.

Black Dynamite director LeSean Thomas puts it best when he says, “Remember: There’s a difference between good programmers who move things in Flash and good, traditional animators who use Flash.”


  • Flash is King

    Incredible! I’ve keyframed tweens before to stagnate movement before but that combined distortion trick within the symbol is genius. Really great post, I love that you can still keep learning new things in Flash despite living in the program daily.

  • Steven Bowser

    This is so cool. I’m pretty frustrated with cheap Flash animation that I’ve been seeing lately and I’m glad that it can be used to create animation with depth and dimension.

  • I Like Flash

    Another good quote about Flash: “You can do anything in Flash that you can do on paper.”

    • Fried

      The problem is that can be said about literally any program that has frames or layers. As long as you can “flip” in a program or by hand, you can do animation.

      But that doesn’t say anything about how innovative the program is or how well the interface functions, nor the types of tools available (This is one of the biggest problems with Flash is that you have to force yourself to adapt to its types of lines, they don’t feel organic at all).

    • Alive

      yea, until you find out you have limited canvas’ space control. well, I’m not sure is that mine problem.

  • Flash is Awesome

    Amazing! And, please, when will people realize that good or bad is NEVER a matter of software!

    • Ghost of Disney

      no it depends how the artist works with said software.

      I personally prefer Toon Boom because I have Better control over my like work and you can add images while you tween.

  • Jack Rabbit

    It’s still a graphics manipulation program….

    • DangerMaus

      So is a pencil when you get right to the core of it.

      • Jack Rabbit

        Ridiculous. Neither can you ‘tween with a pencil OR inbetween with a cg program.

        • PhilmanX

          yes you can inbetween with cg software, it’s just whether or not you’re going to be lazy about it.

  • Bob Harper

    Well OBVIOUSLY they are not using Flash! Because this is fantastic animation, and as we all know, Flash makes all animation look fugly.

  • Edmar Vazquez

    King Star King was also made using Flash.

  • Toonio

    Flash is not dead! Long live Flash!

  • slowtiger

    It’s the talking dog phenomenon again: doesn’t matter what the dog says, everybody is amazed that a a dog talks at all.

    So they use Flash, and they stretch Flash’s abilities quite a bit. So what? Wouldn’t another software on the market be better suited to the task? How much pain in the ass is the usage of Flash for the animators?

    Each software has its own restrictions, each decision to use a certain software is also a decision for a certain style of movement and design. You can do nearly anything in nearly every software, but always for a price. The 80/20 rule applies: 80% of your job can be done in 20% of your time and budget, but some 20% will eat 80% of time and budget – especially if the studio stubbornly sticks to tools not suited for the job.

    Quite often I’m offered an animation job which is tied to one certain software. When I ask why this certain software was chosen, the answer nearly always is “because that’s what we bought”. No artistic decision behind this, no conscious choice of best tool. I prefer studios which use lots of different tools.

    • Johnny

      The point is that Flash can be used in much better ways instead of the cheap puppet cartoons it’s only ever been used for in the West. Of course there’s better software nowadays but that’s because no one seemed to be utilizing Flash properly and just went the quick and easy route despite having bigger budget and time to churn out animation.

      Ping Pong isn’t even the first Japanese series to utilize Flash in this manner either but this website sure is never going to pay attention to stuff like Naruto which I don’t really blame them for.

    • Ryoku240

      I liked it better when they use tools that’re more common and shared, it silly having to lean several programs to get work.

  • http://robertkohr.com/ Robert Kohr

    While I agree that anything can be done in Flash, its worth noting that they are using Flash as an Ink and Paint system. Flash can do anything however it cannot save time or money on a production over other more robust tools. It all goes back to artist and iPads. Sure you can make an amazing piece of art on an iPad but a larger professional grade tablet will be more efficient and allow more tools. In the end Flash ipads what have you are all tools. An amazing illustrator can make amazing things with a shitty #2 pencil.

    • WrenDavey

      They actually rough the animation in Flash before they “ink and paint” it.

  • Jack Rabbit

    Toon Boom is the bridge between Flash and hand-drawn on paper. It begs the user to utilize the Flash-like tools to make animation cheaper and faster and thus, more Flash-like. Flash geniuses are welcome to push the Flash and also Toon Boom software over the ledge, just as these Japanese animators are doing, but as you said, the results are not as satisfying as drawing on paper.

    • Just Visiting

      Satisfaction is subjective. I use Flash in the so called “cheap, low quality” way, and I get much satisfaction from it.

      All the stuff people gush over, I just think to myself, why is it moving so much?

      Animation is animation. People need to stop with the holier than thou attitude because they use paper or do traditional animation. UPA proved that limited, graphically appealing animation can be awesome, so why is this still an ongoing discussion?

      • Jack Rabbit

        Nobody is saying drawing on paper is superior to the best of what Flash has to offer. Can you site any examples of a Flash project that was better than (e.g) Pinocchio? I’ve drawn into Flash through a tablet, laid down the inklines and produced completed animation in Flash as good as I possibly could. My preference is to do it on paper. Much simpler. I have also rotoscoped live action, about 30 scenes, in Flash, to produce ‘A Scanner Darkly’ type project. Flash is rarely used for labor-intensive animation applications that would be deemed like full cel hand-drawn animation. My personal observation in laying down the inklines, as I know how to do it, is that a crew having to do this would definitely cause a number of them to suffer carpel-tunnel syndrome in their mouse-hand. As I was responding to the guy above me in regards to satisfaction of hand drawn, you may have the experience of Flash produced animation as what you grew up on or are actually doing for work within your sense of the best satisfaction possible. As you said, animation is animation. I say it so often in crediting what I am looking at that it has become a cliché with me. But there has been a lot of bad handdrawn animation throughout all decades, and I even see a particular sensitivity that cg offers but no 2D animation producer will ever allow for. So regardless of what IS animation, the best of each type is only for the individual person to either just dream of, or actually do by doing the work to produce it.

  • Bob Harper

    I love how people seem to think that all hand drawn animation is better than anything created with a computer. Let’s just look at TV animation from the late 60′s through the 80′s and see how we think. Was it the pencil’s fault of camera stand’s fault about the lack of quality?

    I have plenty of reasons for using Flash. My aspirations are to create similar animation to Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, as well as cutout animation ala Terry Gilliam and some flat UPA style stuff.. At the time I learned Flash, it was cheap and easy to learn and did what I wanted it to do.

    I also got into game animation and found that reusing assets for both gaming and shorts was very convenient for me and it opened up many new markets.

    Now trying to to do traditional looking stuff Flash is okay but Toonboom is better, but neither will help you animated better, both offer some sort of shortcuts , especially for mechanical animation, and the ability to build reusable libraries.

    A lot of us old folks used Flash in the early dotcom days, you know the shitty cartoons that gave Flash a bad name. Many of us got burned out learning new software or paying high prices for the better stuff, so we stubbornly kept making Flash work for our needs.

    This video proves that the user decides and has control of the final output, not the software.

    My best traditionally animated scene done with a Blackwing pencil would not be anywhere near as good compared to Glen Keane on his worst day using a Ticonderoga #2. Luckily I’m not aspiring to be the next Glen Keane.

    • DangerMaus

      Ha ha. Really. I have to ask myself if any of the people complaining about the quality of Flash animation have ever watched anything older than the year 2000. I’m not going to say that Flash animation is fantastic. It’s still limited animation, but a lot of it sure has a lot more life and movement to it than the limited animation that the likes of Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears cranked out in the 70s and 80s.

      It’s TV animation. It will never have the production values of theatrical animation, so it will never look as good, but computers and programs like Flash have allowed for better looking production values on the starvation budgets that TV animation has always had to operate on. Jesus, people are spoiled. If a person ever had to endure watching two decades of simply the worst animation possible, this Flash stuff looks like Full animation in comparison.

      Also, the snobbery on this site in alluding that “puppetry” is some inferior art because it involves manipulation of a model rather than endless frames of hand-drawn animation is brutal. Puppetry has been around a lot longer than “animation”. In fact, puppetry is the first instance of animation which, in its simplest definition, is creating the illusion of life in inanimate objects.

      The fallacy that “handdrawn” is somehow always superior to computer created cartoons is ridiculous. I have seen a lot of crappy animation that was squirted out of the end of pencil, just like there is plenty of crappy animation squirted out of a computer. It’s the budgets that are given and the commitment and talent of the people on the project that determine the quality of the end product, not a tool like a pencil or a program.

      • Ryoku240

        Well put, as a puppet creatoroperator i have to say that it can be just as difficult as traditional animation, hand or stop-motion.

        I don’t point fingers at animation techniques anymore so much as writing, that needs some work.

      • Jim

        This is a great piece of animation by Christian Larocque done using the “puppet” method in Toon Boom Harmony.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zffikdymFRE

        Read more about the test here with more examples of extremely advanced puppet rigs Christian has built: http://blog.11secondclub.com/2012/09/christian-larocque-interview.html

        But hey, Christian is just a “programmer with no traditional skills” right? He’s just “moving crap around” isn’t he? If he drew it all on paper it would have been soooo much better, right? RIGHT?? DA TWEENS ARE EEVVVVIILL *cough* Sorry.

    • Jim

      Psssh don’t you know you’re just a programmer Bob? Flash doesn’t actually require any REAL animation skills, you just push a few buttons, throw in some of those magical “tweens” and BOOM, you get a finished cartoon.

      http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mazbv0L2lk1rgbr6wo1_500.gif

  • Awake7two

    Does anyone happen to know what the song playing is? It sounds like Animal Collective, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.

  • LeSean Thomas

    Until now. Space Dandy, a new series by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop , Samurai Champloo) features animators who work all in flash. Namely animator Bahi Jd (who was covered here on CB before I believe). It’s about the animators, not the tools. Many people working in flash are rarely prolific and active traditional animators, but very savvy programmers who can manipulate symbols and libraries of compartmentalized assets to give a “fluid” puppet affect instead of drawing in the program with a traditional pose-to-pose technique w/ in-betweens. It can be done, just about the talent willing to use the program, the rest are a matter of ability and excuses. Check out his samples in the link below, it’s mind blowing.

    http://www.deculture.es/2014/07/28/entrevista-bahi-jd-animador/

    • Jim

      “Many people working in flash are rarely prolific and active traditional animators, but very savvy programmers who can manipulate symbols and libraries of compartmentalized assets to give a “fluid” puppet affect instead of drawing in the program with a traditional pose-to-pose technique w/ in-betweens.”

      So CG animators who work in Maya aren’t “real” animators then? They’re merely “programmers” because they’re manipulating a rigged puppet instead of drawing frame by frame? Because they’re doing the exact same thing as Flash/Toon Boom animators, only in three dimensions.

      Also, most people I know who work in Flash (and Maya), good friends of mine, come from traditional animation backgrounds. I think that’s a bit insulting to call them “programmers” instead of animators simply because they are animating with a stylus instead of a pencil.

      In Flash (and related programs) may “just” be moving around symbols, but you still have to have a good sense of timing and spacing even for the simplest looking stuff.

      I do Flash “puppet” animation on a daily basis as a job. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just moving stuff around and letting the computer do the rest of the work… at least if you want the animation to look any good.

      • Zazen

        You know what he’s talking about! (I realize this is more than a weeks old but had to comment)
        He’s not ragging on those people that are more reliant on the idiosyncracies of the program. It’s more the idea that, say, let’s put a cloud filter on a random swab of pixels and let’s call it a day. However, do note that everyone is walking on a road of an artist. There’s always room for improvement and I think it’s worth noting that people who have paved roads more ‘traditional’ for decades(and this includes the Japanese as well) are worth looking at. I wish that most flash/3d/whatever future may holds us animators will keep this in mind.

        • LeSean Thomas

          Thank you Zaren.

  • Jack Rabbit

    They wrongly call it 2D as traditional is 2D. Flash is pure digitization; it is CG animation different from 3D animation. It is 2D CG animation, but not 2D traditional, so anyone who lumps Flash as trying to be like that as traditional is ignorant to the differences. As for your application to it, more power to you. Animation is animation, and it’s the statement you make with it that counts.

    • Caustic

      Well, 2D hand drawn animation *is* possible in Flash. In fact, Bahi JD who worked on Ping Pong, used Flash to create animated drafts roughly akin to traditional animation. To me, it doesn’t matter whether you use pencil on paper or stylus on tablet, as long as you are drawing each frame individually, you can make traditional animation with Flash.

  • Sean Orlanda

    As long as you can animate traditionally flash is usefuland really fits with your needs as an animator…

    here’s some animation we have completed using flash last 2009

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJVpiI9_A4I

  • Ryoku240

    On top of that they went from selling Flash as a product and moreso a service, you gotta keep paying to use it.

  • Ryoku240

    You can get good results from Flash, like how you can make good drawings with MSPaint.

    My problems with Flash are moreso the following:

    1. Flash used to be an expensive but useful semi-stable product, now its subscribe only and its quite unstable according to people in the industry. Expensive to run and high maintenance, i can see why Toon Booms the new thing on top of its good results. Good luck getting any old non-subscribe versions of Flash.

    2. This could just be me, but I found Flash to be clumsy to use compared to just drawing things. I couldn’t get “onion skins” to see previous frames and because of how the tweening and shape selection works I had to keep details low. But then again I was using an older version, maybe the new ones better.

    That being said if you put your mind to it you can make good stuff with it, and if you have money to drop on a regular basis.