As cameras and editing software become more and more accessible to the public, doors are being opened for new filmmakers like never before. Anybody with a camera, even just the one in their cell phone, can import footage into a professional grade open source video editor and compositor and make cinema. 3D animation software of the same quality required for feature animation can be had for free. Now we can add 2D animation software to that list. As of March 26, “Toonz“, the same software used by Studio Ghibli to create such masterpieces as Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away is being released as open source software.

It’s being done through Japanese software publisher Dwango. The software development house Digital Video will still develop and market new versions of the software, and a competitively priced premium edition will still be available for those who can afford it. However, the new software release is called OpenToonz, and is being dubbed the “Toonz Ghibli Edition”, because it will have all the bells, whistles and special features implemented by the famed Japanese studio. Yes, eventually it won’t be the cutting edge commercial Toonz software. It will, however, be every bit as strong as what was used to create the Ghibli masterpieces, and if it was good enough to do that, it’ll be up to anything you can throw at it, and it will be under constant development and receive constant support.

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.

Mr. Atsushi Okui, Executive Imaging Director at Studio Ghibli said this about the release of OpenToonz:

“During the production of ‘Princess Mononoke’ in 1995, we needed a software enabling us to create a certain section of the animation digitally. We checked for what was available at that time and chose ‘Toonz’. Our requirement was that in order to continue producing theatre-quality animation without additional stress, the software must have the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly. From then onwards we continued to use the software while going through major updates to make it easier for us to use. We are happy to hear that this open source version contains the Ghibli Edition. We hope that many people inside and outside of the animation industry will utilize this software for their work. We would like to extend our gratitude to the staff of Digital Video.”

 One of the goals of releasing OpenToonz as open source, free software is to attempt to revitalize the 2D animation industry. The open source version of Toonz will be officially presented in Tokyo at Anime Japan (March 26 and 27).

What will you do with OpenToonz?

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