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Toonz Software Used by Studio Ghibli and ‘Futurama’ Being Made Free and Open Source

With one announcement, the animation software game may have changed forever. Toonz, the software used by Studio Ghibli to produce films like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises, will be made free and open source to the animation community beginning March 26, 2016.

The deal, which could have a potentially profound impact on the animation industry, was made possible after Japanese publisher Dwango acquired the Toonz software from Italian tech company Digital Video, which has been producing the animation package since 1993.

Ghibli has been using Toonz since the production of Princess Mononoke, and the new OpenToonz is dubbed “Toonz Ghibli Edition” because of all the custom-features that Toonz has developed over the years for the legendary Japanese studio. [Update: OpenToonz is now available to download.]

Atsushi Okui, executive imaging director at Studio Ghibli, explained that they initially chose Toonz back in 1995 “in order to continue producing theater-quality animation without additional stress,” and a desire for software that had “the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly.”

However, Toonz is not exclusive to Ghibli and is used by plenty of other studios, including Rough Draft, which produced Matt Groening’s Futurama with it, and Folimage, which used it for its recent feature, Phantom Boy.

The software boasts an extensive history, dating back to 1993, and has been used on the production of many Hollywood features and TV series including Fox’s Anastasia, Amblimation’s Balto, and MTV’s The Maxx, as well as popular computer games like Psygnosis’s Discworld 2. It was originally available only for high-end SGI workstations, and for a period of time was part of Microsoft’s Softimage arm, which later became Autodesk.

Digital Video will continue to develop and market Toonz software, and will offer installation, configuration, training, support and customization services to studios. A premium version will continue to be sold at a “very competitive price” for companies who wish to invest in the customization of Toonz for major projects.

“The contract with Dwango, which offers the Toonz open source platform to the animation community, has enabled Digital Video to realize one of its strategies, i.e. to make of Toonz a world standard for 2D animation,” said Claudio Mattei, managing director of Digital Video. “This deal will be also the starting point of a new exciting plan to endorse the open source business model, by supporting training and customizing Toonz for the old and new users.”

Toonz is not exactly a well known name, even among industry pros, but the list of major companies and projects that have used it before (as well as Ghibli’s ringing endorsement) should be enough to convince many artists to give it a try. While there will no doubt be a learning curve for artists who are used to industry standards like Flash and Toonboom, Toonz is also more than capable of handling major productions, and the long-term benefits of switching to open source could prove attractive for many studios.

The announcement of OpenToonz comes at a time when animation is experiencing the biggest boom period in its history. The widespread availability of hardware is allowing animation production to expand in parts of the world that traditionally have not been major animation producers (South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East).

However, many of the young artists in these regions do not have the resources to invest in proprietary software. That’s especially why we view OpenToonz, a free professional-grade 2D animation software, as a complete and total gamechanger for the animation industry moving forward. The animation floodgates just opened.

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  • BongBong

    Fantastic! Should at least give those interested in traditional animation a leg up.

  • Mashed Potato

    Sounds promising, looking forward to seeing how it handles raster drawings.
    Photoshop’s animation is a bit of a pain to grapple with and TVpaint feels very, very confusing and barebones.

    • Maximillian vi Christannia

      Really? I kinda like TVPaint, I’m currently animating my bachelor’s animated short in it, and so far have found it a very pleasing program.

      • http://brittanyyvonnepenn.wix.com/portfolio Brittany

        I’d agree that TVPaint has it’s ups and downs. For me it’s not nearly as intuitive as Photoshop when it comes to the interface, drawing, & altering drawings, but it does have the most useful keyframe/timing system. At least Toonz won’t be as pricey as TVPaint.

      • PixelKhaos

        Yeah, I would not in any way say TVPaint is barebones, quite the opposite really. It is very different from other softwares, I give you that. But as the case with ANY new software you need to learn, it’s just a matter of using it for a while to get used to it. TVPaint was even something I used just as a painting software for a while, and I recommend it for animation.

  • Marc Hendry

    there really are no excuses now

    • thesurviver

      yup, gonna give this a try myself once the time comes, my girlfriend seems pretty excited too :)

    • Calum Sanderson

      It couldn’t come at a better time. When companies are focusing solely on CGI films and 2D (and even stop motion) films are few and far between, a move like this may truly open the floodgates not only for more traditional animation but also for animators who have no connections or experience to create innovative and refreshing shorts and features all from their home and home computer(s). Tremendous.

    • Jason Mounce

      Rubberninja said the exact same thing, lmao

    • Simmon Keith Barney

      Except for the minor setback of there being no English manuals included…

  • http://ranckys.tumblr.com sucks

    l’ve never heard of Toonz before, but l’m happy there are other choices to software use! Looking forward to trying this out once it’s out and about!

  • vermillionlove

    Sweet! I can’t wait to see what people will make with it

  • Monkey JUMP

    This is amazing!!! I can’t wait to try it out! :D

    • William Nelson

      Well there is the answer to Nina Paley’s question “Where is my open source animation software?”

  • Ward Jenkins

    Wow. This IS a game changer – especially for me. I’ve never dipped my toe in the Flash or ToonBoom pool, but I did start off working on Toonz back in 1996 when I was doing 2D ink & paint and compositing for various ads, etc. It would be great to get back into this. FINALLY. Thanks for the heads up!

  • UsaMiKo

    On one hand, while I am excited at the idea of a having a free animation program, I can’t say I’m too pleased with the looks of this UI. Seriously, the learning curve for this looks practically VERTICAL. I guess it might be worth it in the end though.

    • PixelKhaos

      being open source, I’m very sure it’d be possible to redesign the UI. But as of learning curve, I’m actually guessing it’s moderate for the most part, it simply is for production as well meaning it has a lot of extra tools. Of which most users probably wouldn’t use, meaning one could simply hide it and not use it.

      Same was the case with softwares like Cinema4D, it had a lot of tools, and after a few years of using it, I still only use like 15-20% of the software’s tools.

    • Ward Jenkins

      Like every program, there’s a learning curve – one thing with Toonz, from what I remember is that it was set up very much like animation exposure sheets – top to bottom for time, as opposed to left to right, like Flash.

      • exposure sheets

        Toonz isn’t the only software to do that. CTP also has its timing set up like an exposure sheet. And in DigiCel FlipBook, they even call their timing bar an X-sheet.

        • Ward Jenkins

          It’s called an x-sheet in Toonz, from what I remember as well. While I’m sure there are other software programs that do top-to-bottom timelines, I wasn’t saying Toonz was the only one. I remember digging it at the time – it was easy for me to transfer my written out x-sheets into Toonz that way. Couldn’t do that in Flash.

  • http://nick-cross.com Nick Cross

    My first film was made on Toonz waaay back in 1998!

  • http://tresportfolio.tumblr.com/ Tres Swygert

    The narration for the video was too annoying to listen to. Should’ve done differently to keep interest.

    But away from that, as everyone is saying, this really does open the animation game wide open, and can put better perspective in helping animators animate, without them worrying of budget constraints.

    • http://ranckys.tumblr.com sucks

      Yeah l thought the narration was very annoying to listen to as well; they probably shouldn’t of used a text-to-speech for that!

      • abiz

        Yea, a broken english Japanese accent would have been a much better choice…

  • DrawtoonzStudio

    Oooh, can’t wait for this!

  • Vausch Abendroth

    Last month I cancelled my Adobe subscription because Flash/Animate was too obnoxious to work with. I figured “I’ll get toon boom instead, at least I know Disney uses it”.

    Now I will be waiting a while longer before getting locked into a contract.

  • https://twitter.com/kirisakisun daria ╭( ・ㅂ・)و ̑̑

    oooh i’m so excited!!

  • Sslaxx

    So, what license? Is this actually going to be open source (ala GPL, MIT etc) or “open source” in the same way UE4, Lumberyard etc. are (i.e. they aren’t)?

  • http://www.distrakt.com/ DISTRAKT

    Woooow!

  • http://nick-cross.com Nick Cross

    no I use toonboom now. Toonz used to be astronomically expensive so i used the one at the studio i worked at after hours and on weekends

    • Selene Jones

      I find toonboom less fun than some others I’ve tried 😓

      • http://nick-cross.com Nick Cross

        It’s not the best, but it’s ok for drawing digitally

        • 3Rton

          I’ve just got to ask but, do you plan to use it now that it is free?

  • Release Date

    For those of you wondering where to download it, it’s being released on March 26th! Be patient!

  • Simon

    It’s available for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and for Mac OS X running on Intel processors (with optimisation for 64-bit OS version).

    • wikcat

      yep! when CB posted about “how to download” noticed osx were available :) thanks!

  • About Linux

    I think the free version should be comparable to the officially supported payed subscription option. A representative from Digital Video told me that said that the free version will be the same software Studio Ghibli used in their latest film. (I’m assuming she meant When Marnie Was There)

    As for a Linux version, I really hope to see one eventually too. But it will probably have to come from the open source community. I can’t imagine it would receive much official support. But keep in mind, ‘open source’ doesn’t necessarily mean that the copyright licence is permissive as it sounds. We have to wait for the release, and find out exactly what kind of licence the program is being released under, and that will certainly determine whether or not we can realistically expect a Linux release.

    Even if the open source licence ends up being more restrictive than most, I’m still extremely excited about this news. Having professional hand-drawn animation software available free of charge is going to make a huge difference.

  • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

    When it’s available, it should be here…
    https://github.com/opentoonz

    But you’ll have to wait until the 26th to get it.

  • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

    There’s always a catch somewhere, I hope this gives you a decent resolution and enough layers at least.

  • Jouko Raudasoja

    After finishing my hand-drawn animation project with Toonz and experiencing 100+ crashes and bugs, i promised never to touch this program again. Maybe now someone will fix it and i can give it a second chance.

  • http://marscaleb.com/ Caleb Child

    I am VERY intrigued by this, and I want to check this out and see what it can do.
    But I am a little disappointed; when I first saw the headline I thought this was the software that made 3D animation look like 2D animation. But still, it looks really awesome and I want to get my hands on it.

    • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

      No, this is just 2D all the way.

  • https://soundcloud.com/vic-demise Vic Demise

    Compared to working with GIMP and the Gimp Animation Package (GAP) this is going to be AMAZING!

  • Dale Mahalko

    Looks like I found another free software to install on K-12 public school classroom computers. However, I suspect the learning curve will be slightly higher than this other free software we use, called Tux Paint.

    • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

      Seeing what Tux Paint is, yes, this is much higher (perhaps the high school set might suffice).

  • http://tresportfolio.tumblr.com/ Tres Swygert

    I don’t think Adobe is going to feel bothered or threatened by this software alone. If Toonz was providing more applications along with the animation program, that’s when Adobe will turn heads.

  • Sonic2k

    Cannot wait

  • Kirielson

    “Those will probably end up being proprietary, so that an artist moving from one studio to another may discover that tools he/she relies on are not there at the new job.”

    That’s when they can sell their particular extension to others, or give it out for free so that people can improve upon it themselves if they cannot continue.

  • Frank Panucci

    I’ve used Toonz more than once professionally (the client owned the license, which cost as much as a used car at that time). The open-sourcing of this monster software is a surprise. I don’t know what’s in it for the company, but it’s a gift to every digital animator who wants to tackle its learning curve.

    The synthesized voice is actually a good choice for this video. If you’ve ever struggled with demos or tutorials narrated by presenters to whom English is a second or third language, you’ll know how frustrating it is to try to understand what’s being said. Mr. Robot Voice, although superficially annoying, is a great way to sidestep the problem of impenetrable accents. As the above article points out, Toonz has been an Italian company for a while, so probably all its developers sound like Super Mario speaking with a mouthful of provolone.

  • PillarMen

    In the immortal words of Joseph Joestar:
    OH MY GOD!

  • http://robertkohr.com/ Robert Kohr

    Now make it for iPad Pro, then you could have a really nice inexpensive portable animation system.

  • FM Hansen

    And I just upgraded to Harmony 12 Advanced from Animate 3 – and currently experiencing major slow down issues as Harmony sucks-up all my Macmini’s processing power. Suddenly ToonBoom is not on my good list. Very curious about this Toonz offer, although it looks PC based.

    • http://robertkohr.com/ Robert Kohr

      I think the issue is less Harmony and more your computer. Also you can’t upgrade from one software package to their premium and expect that the same computer will be able to handle it. For me Harmony 12.2 Premium runs fine on an i5 Surface Pro.

  • Patrik

    Anyone knows the exact link to download the program? I can’t find it in their site.

    • Nate Spidgewood

      Uh…it’s not coming out until the 26th. You need to wait.

      • Patrik Caetano

        Thank you, i didn’y know that.

  • jsmith0552

    Glad I held off purchasing TVPaint.

  • InglebertHumperdink1

    I’ve never been able to afford the software. I took traditional animation in college for 4 years, looks like I’ll be able to do my short after all.

  • Elliander Eldridge

    It is a very bold business plan. Offering a product for free means there is less incentive to pay them, but since their target market is the large studios who will need customization anyway having an entire generation of art students use their software means brand recognition and long term profit.

  • http://mattdeanart.com Matt Dean

    I don’t think I’ve fully processed how big this is. To think that independent animators of any expertise now have as much of a fighting chance as those who own costly proprietary software like Toon Boom or Flash, with the exact same tools used by professional studios such as Rough Draft and Studio Ghibli(!!) – and all for free, no less. It seems too good to be true and yet here it is.

    There’s no doubt that this could do for hand drawn animation what Blender did for CG, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally wonder if an open source 2D animation program would ever exist. Needless to say, Saturday the 26th cannot come soon enough.

  • Mister Twister

    Something something Linux.

  • Joan Napoleon

    I am excited about the Open Source Toonz software and since I am new to this software, I was wondering where I can learn how to use it. I saw the tutorials but I believe I will need more. Can anyone give me some suggestions? Thanks!

  • Scott Jenkins

    Quick fact check: Microsoft *sold* Softimage to Autodesk, that arm of the Microsoft didn’t *become* Autodesk.

  • DerektheGamer

    Is it going to be easy-to-use when it is free on March 26th? This one interests me but it’s going to be my first time.

  • Ward Jenkins

    Yup! Still write ’em out on paper. I’m hardwired that way.

    • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

      I feel Toonz’ll be the dividing gap between the old and the new depending on whether you learned through dope sheets or not.

  • Dáibhí wotshissurname

    I, for one, have just started doing animation, so I have exclusively used Pencil2D, but it’s great to hear that there is an industry-standard animation tool waiting for me! This is AMAZING news!

  • David

    Yes, I also use paper X-sheets and Bar sheets for planning . A friend who is a Sheet Timer for some major shows tells me that they still use paper sheets most of the time. As Ward Jenkins mentioned : I’m hardwired that way . Paper X-sheets are actually very user friendly and flexible , sort of like doing a rough pass of a storyboard on Post-It Notes .

  • David

    Does anyone bother to READ the article ? It says clearly “will be made free and open source to the animation community beginning March 26, 2016.”

  • First time animator

    will their storyboard program be open sourced too?

  • Daniel Matlock

    I can’t wait to dig into this.

  • http://sobieniak.blogspot.com/ Chris Sobieniak

    It’s finally out, here’s the English page with the details.
    https://opentoonz.github.io/e/index.html

    So far we’re getting the main software itself (all open-source and free to use for any project, commercial or not), a scanning tool developed by Studio Ghibli themselves, and some additional effects plug-ins/SDK from Dwango. The manuals and other information appears to be in Japanese for the moment, perhaps it’s not quite different from the regular Toonz software if people familiar with it can figure it out.

  • Steven Bowser

    I downloaded “Open Toonz” and it seems like it’s just for scanning physical drawings and dealing with them after that. Is Open Toonz the only free version? Because I would like to be able to draw straight into the program. Or maybe I just don’t understand how to use it.

    • Angelique Nolan

      You can draw straight into it. If you go to the Windows menu and pick “Toolbar” you’ll get a toolbar you can dock somewhere, and among the tools are tools for drawing.

      • Steven Bowser

        Thank you! That’s exactly what I need.

        I know this just came out, but are there tutorials online anywhere or just places I can get help if I have questions? I’m hoping this program can be a good replacement for PAP4 , because that’s all I’ve been using (it’s pretty crappy, but it works better than any other free animation program I’ve found).

        I just want to use it with my drawing pad so I can practice animation in my spare time.

  • Mikk

    anyone else having problems when starting up the program? Like not opening at all and force closing?

    • Michele Hollie Collins

      Yes, it crashes when I open it. Windows 10 hp pav 500 64bit

  • John Mitchell

    Okay, I just got it, and it crashes on me. Am I doing something wrong?

    • Michele Hollie Collins

      Yup. Don’t know whats wrong.