Anagram Fun with Hoot on GoAnimate

Hoot the Owl and his Wisdom Tree are a creation of GoAnimator, TheseStars. I'm not sure if I just happened across her first animation of Hoot or if she asked me to watch but in any case I liked the idea a lot.

I thought the idea of using GoAnimate to share a love of anagrams was both original and a great use of the site. The only problem was, in TheseStars original animation Hoot and his tree was just a static drawing. (a still from the original is shown below)

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This wasn't very engaging to look at in the sense that it wasn't animated - something you would expect on an animation site. I had a feeling the character would have much more appeal if some movement was added.

I was in the middle of working on Harry Chalk 2 but, looking at the drawing of Hoot I thought I could probably make an animated version with the most necessary basic moves very quickly. So that's what I set out to do. In the space of an evening I had created (in flash using Koolmoves) Hoot's Wisdom Tree as a prop - so any background could be placed behind it - and Hoot with 'sleep', 'stand' and 'Talk' actions.

TheseStars was very happy with the finished results and went on to make the animation below - which was awarded with a Staff Pick on GoAnimate.

Introducing Hoot! by thesestars

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

I think you'll agree the animation she put together is extremely engaging, dynamic and adds plenty of personalty to all the characters with her excellent voice work.

Over time I hope to add a few more actions to Hoot but it's really quite amazing at how much life just those three initial basic actions have given to this fun little owl with a liking for anagrams.

Harry Chalk is BACK on GoAnimate

Almost as soon as I finished the first Harry Chalk I knew that the animation would end up being a series. In fact I remember thinking, crap! I've started another series.

The original has been sitting within GoAnimate's top nine animations of all time for four months now and spent several weeks of those months in the number one spot. It has been viewed more than 11,850 times. Not bad for a small side project.

To get some idea of Harry's popularity I released Harry Chalk 2: Bill's Revenge on May 25th, 2010 and, five days later it's sitting at number 2 in GoAnimate's top animations of all time. That's a record for any of my animations.

In this new adventure Mathew is learning the history of John F. Kennedy's assassination which prompts him to imagine Harry escorting the Presidential motorcade. Things kind of progress from there.

Harry Chalk 2 Bill's Revenge by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

As you can see all the principles are back... Matt's still day dreaming, Harry's a little angrier, Sally's tougher and Bill's not dead!

So far people are saying this second installment is at least as good as the first but I have to agree with those people who still like the first better. I do too.

What's also interesting is that people are asking me about creating a prequel to the first Harry Chalk. I'm not sure what a prequel would contain so I asked GoAnimator, HuskyPup, who said "Personally I would like to know if Mathew's imaginings are real or pretend, because something niggling in the back of my brain tells me they're real."

From my point of view I hadn't really thought about it. Most of what Mathew sees is all in his head. He just gets so caught up in the story that he forgets where he is. Although it has crossed my mind to do an episode where Matt's imaginary characters do battle with another students imaginary characters - so who knows... maybe it's not all just in his head after all?

There's not too much behind the scenes stuff to explain about Harry Chalk 2. The only new technique I employed was when Harry takes out and puts away his pistol. This was achieved simply by using the stick figures take out and put away mobile phone actions - timing them slightly shorter so that Harry never puts a gun up to his face and starts talking.

Sally's gun kick was done the same way as Harry's in the first episode so if you want to know how then read the first episode's post. I will say that I had thought of changing Bill's weapon to a shot gun and have Sally do the same kick to get the shot gun but by the time I thought of it there were just too many scenes of Bill and the pistol and I was already over my release deadline. Maybe in a future episode.

Speaking of future episodes, I still haven't achieved what I originally set out to do with Harry Chalk. That was to do a really good stick figure fight scene. There was kind of a fight scene with Bill in the first episode but that's not the fight I had in mind. I really wanted to do a cool three way fight with the Parallel Triad from episode one.

Having not achieve a great fight you can bet there will be a Harry Chalk three some time in the future.

Video Comes to GoAnimate with TET's PA


GoAnimate has been beta testing a new feature that allows you to add video objects to your animation. More about that in a moment. Just prior to the video feature's release to GoAnimate beta testers I made an animation called 'Moonlighting - TET's New PA'.

The premise being Jim Benton's Happy Bunny, from my GoAnimate Complaints Department, series decides to take a job moonlighting as my personal assistant. The idea came about as I way to humorously inform my fans of the status on some of my on going series projects like MIB and Harry Chalk as well humorously look at some of the problems of being a popular GoAnimator.

Moonlighting - TET's New PA by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

There's not much more that needs to be said about the above animation. It's basically the GoAnimate Complaints Department in a new setting with a trap door.

I discovered GoAnimate's new video upload feature on GoAnimate's Forum in a discussion where someone had tried to unsuccessfully upload the Youtube meme, Charlie bit my finger. I decided to take quick action to be one of the first to demonstrate how video could enhance and have great potential for creativity within animation rather than be a means to which people could just upload video to GoAnimate and do nothing else with it.

TET's PA Video Test by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Created as a kind of short continuation of my previously mentioned TET's PA animation I created this short video demonstration over the best part of an afternoon. Since Happy Bunny had used the trap door quite a bit I thought me questioning him about it's effectiveness seemed like a good idea.

Once I'd written my lines I set up my video camera in my studio (which is a two car garage) so that it pointed directly at a wall. Then I imagined where Happy Bunnies desk would be and then put myself in frame so it looked kind of like me sitting opposite the desk.

I then acted my lines, being careful to look about where I thought Happy Bunnies face would be (I didn't set up any markers I just imagined its position based on how I framed the shot). I think I filmed about five takes with the one I used being either take 4 or 5.

I also recorded myself reading Happy Bunnies lines out in my studio so his audio would sound like it was recorded in the same space (which it was - obviously)

After that I imported the raw footage in my video editing software to remove the lead in and lead out footage so that only the section I needed remained. Then I added in Happy Bunnies spoken audio in the appropriate gaps (complete with helium voice effect).  Once done I compiled this scene into a windows media file and uploaded it to GoAnimate.

Once yoour video is on GoAnimate you can simply place it on the studio stage like any other object, character or prop. You can move it around, resize it and place it in front or behind objects. The video also retains it's sound track - effectively giving you an extra audio track on top of the four already provided in the studio.

In GoAnimates studio I positioned the video and then placed all the props around it and positioned Happy Bunny so his face matched where I was looking in the recorded footage. That was really all there was to it. After that it's just like editing any other animation.

I haven't seen many other beta testers try this feature out which is kind of surprising to me. I think there is a genuine concern that this feature will be misused and people will simply upload video and forget to enhance it in some way with animation. Which is perhaps one reason why it's not been used a lot.

However I think it is a great addition to GoAnimate's studio that does open up many creative possibilities in the right directors hands. I know I'll certainly be trying more with video on GoAnimate in the future.

Domokun Golf

It's golf but not quite as expected. Greg and Mr Usaji are having a quiet game of golf when suddenly Greg's ball starts to move all by its self.

This short animation was put together fairly quickly to give my Domo Animate fans, who had been asking when my next Domo animation was coming out, something new from me.

It's a rare occasion that I use anything other than Domo characters in a Domo animation but when I came up with the idea for this I was experimenting with the stick figure theme on DomoAnimate.

I imagine this could be how Mr Usaji first met Domo.

Domo Golf by etourist

Like it? Create your own at DomoNation.com. It's free and fun!

People have asked me how I made Domo's shell break away when hit by the club. It's a simple slight of hand effect. Domo is still in the egg but hidden by a grass coloured circle that moves along the same path as the shell. Then a different 'flying' domo is used to distract your attention.

I would have like to developed this idea more but other projects meant I really couldn't explore it further.

Koolmoves, Kung Fu Cat and GoAnimate

Koolmoves is professional flash animation software at a budget price and is a great alternative to Adobe's Flash Professional CS5. At less than one twelfth of the price of Adobe's offering it's a great introduction for flash noobies to dip their toe into the water to see if it's for them without the pressure of a serious investment in software.

It's also great for people like me who only need a fraction of the software's capabilities. The cost of CS5 is unjustifiable whilst the cost of Koolmoves is a good investment should you discover you want to do more at a later time.

I bought Koolmoves back in February and I've now had some time to test it out. As I said I only needed a fraction of what this software can do so as a result I can only comment on what I've used. However if you want to program fully capable, flash web sites or make stand alone flash movies and cartoons then Koolmoves certainly appears to have everything you need.

Me... I just wanted to be able to create animated characters and props that I could import onto GoAnimate.

Koolmoves has a dedicated Cartooning and Illustration mode which turns on all the software's advanced features. This can be a bit daunting so, if you're really new to the software, it's probably worth trying out the wizard and basic modes first and just seeing what you can do with that before taking the plunge into full on cartoon animation. Try some of the tutorials and task assistants as well.

This review isn't intended to be a step by step guide to creating characters with Koolmoves. Instead I'll just highlight features that I liked and point out any difficulties I've had.

For my very first animated character GoAnimator, Cool34606, agreed to let me turn his custom character, Kung Fu Cat, that I'd animated with before, into a true flash animated character. I chose his character because it was an original design and because Cool's drawings weren't too complex but weren't overly simple either.

The first great feature, that I assume is standard in most cartoon animation packages, is the ability to import a bitmap image so you can trace it with vector lines. That meant I could just load in Cool's original drawings to trace my base figure from.

The only problem I've had with this feature is that if you change magnification of your drawing it'll no longer match up with your trace image. Thus you have to choose a magnification before you start and then stick with it.

Once you have the base figure it's relatively easy to animate most moves without having to redraw every frame. You just move the vector lines around on each new frame. The ability to 'onion skin' i.e. see previous and successive frames (shown below) comes in real handy.


You can see as many previous or successive frames as you need. You can also view your image in wire frame mode if objects are obstructing lines on other frames that you need to see.

Koolmoves does have a character 'bones' feature where by, in theory, you create a skeleton for you character so that instead of moving the vector lines themselves you just move the bone limbs around and the software will move your lines correspondingly. However I found it clunky and unusable and haven't tried to use them since. To be fair though even the user guide says their bones system is primitive so hopefully future versions will improve this feature.

I've only delved into Action Script at a most basic level with my characters, using commands such a 'stop movie' and 'gotoAndPlay'. GoAnimate characters don't really support advanced action script commands. Koolmoves supports both Action Script 1 and 3 so if coding is your thing the software is very capable.

Exporting your creation, options include; as straight flash movies, Flash/HTML embed, frame captures and Scalable Vector Graphics.

Below is my GoAnimate demonstration video for Kung Fu Cat which shows all of the initial moves I created for him using Koolmoves.

KFCC 2.0 - First Test by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

It would be fair to say I've barely used Koolmoves to it's full potential. It includes many fantastic effect tools to create animated and 3D text. Drawing tools include the ability to create gradient fills, transparency, adjust line thicknesses and more. You can import video, audio and indeed, create entire flash animated cartoons with Koolmoves alone that you could upload to Youtube.

The program is still a little buggy and has on occasion crashed on me but, if you save your work often this will hopefully not be an issue. For the shift into paid flash software from the extremely buggy  Pencil Animator it is one giant leap for very little cost. I would definitely recommend it as an animators tool and for anyone who wants to try flash without the high cost of Adobe's Professional software.

Note: If you're a GoAnimator reading this review, as of the time I wrote this article only GoAnimate Beta Testers are able to upload flash objects and characters. This may change some time in the future but, in the meantime, why not try Koolmoves and learn flash animation for yourself.

Bat Storm Coming to GoAnimate

Readers of my other blog will know that I'm a huge Batman fan. Specifically Batman on film as I don't read Batman comics at all. I've blogged about Batman many times. More about that in a moment.

When I recently saw the movie Hancock it struck a chord with something I had been thinking about when I watched the movie, The Dark Knight. That is the cost of the property damage many of these superhero characters cause in their quest to rid the world of evil scum.

Hancock creates a massive amount of unnecessary property damage that becomes a major cause of concern for the city he lives in. The cost of cleaning up after the heroes misadventures is a real issue.

If you look at the opening scenes of The Dark Knight where Batman sends in the Batmobile to 'terrorize' the criminals, the car crashes through a wall and fires missiles into what looks to be a toll booth office of the multi story car park they are in. What is that costing the rate payers of Gotham?

Enter my new superhero character Bat Storm. See the first preview below.

Bat Storm Preview by etourist on GoAnimate


When GoAnimate introduced superhero outfits into their character creator, because I'm a huge Batman fan, I set out to see if I could create a character that was as close to a Batman look-a-like as I could get. Seems easy enough but none of their superhero cowls have bat ears so I had to improvise (I'm not telling how I achieved the ears).

You also can't change the logo insignia of two lightening bolts on the superhero suits so when I was thinking up a name I related it back to that insignia so it would make sense - hence 'Bat Storm'.

My concept for Bat Storm the series is looking at the idea that being a superhero is actually pretty expensive. Especially if you're not a heir to an old money billionaire fortune like Bruce Wayne is. Bat Storm is low rent and working class. In fact he's a single Dad struggling to make ends meet and can't afford to run a car.

His daughter, Bat Flash is seventeen and works in the family business of crime fighting and children's party appearances (crime fighting doesn't actually pay a lot when you're a vigilante).

Bat Storm is just like Batman and has no real superpowers. In fact he's not even that great at solving crimes with his public school education and B minus grade point average. However he's determined to make crime fighting pay... at least a little more than being a criminal seems to pay!

Unlike the current Batman on film, played by Christian Bale, real superheroes do exist in Bat Storm's world. In particular, Super Charge and Charge Girl (Superman and Super Girl look-a-likes respectively). Bat Storm and Bat Flash see them as 'the competition' and don't tolerate it when they muscle in on Bat's turf.

As can be seen in this preview animation below with Bat Flash and Charge Girl:

Bat Storm Preview 2 by etourist on GoAnimate


By now you should have realised Bat Storm is a comedy series. My intention is to do a run of six episodes each 24 minutes long (each episode will be broken up further into 8 minute parts for GoAnimate). The challenge for me is to transition from short, 3-5 minute scripts to TV length sitcom scripts.

I'm hoping to have the first episode out by June/July of 2010 but it's a lot of work for one person so we'll have to see how it goes. If you're looking forward to it, let me know in the comments. It might just spur me on to get the series done sooner.

In the meantime here's a sequence featuring Super Charge from an unreleased, third preview animation (you may need to click on it to see a larger version):

GoAnimate Complaints Easter Special

After doing a GoAnimate Complaints Department Christmas Special many people suggested I should do an Easter Special.

Initially I felt, with Easter being in early April it was too soon to bring Happy Bunny back to the Complaints desk. After all it takes time to build up ideas as well as collect them from the GoAnimate community.

However it was the Easter holiday, which is a popular time for bunnies, so how could I not do an Easter Special?

Despite my initial reservations about having enough ideas the finished special is over four minutes long - making it one of the longest episodes in the series.

If you're not familiar with the Complaints Department series it does contain a lot of GoAnimate Community references as a basis for it's humor. Which is one of the reasons why the series is one of the most popular on the site. This episode alone has been viewed more than 6000 times.

GoAnimate Complaints Easter Special by etourist

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Some things of note from this episode include:

  • The Easter basket is, I think, my first custom flash prop created with my new Flash Animation software, Koolmoves.
  • The first public appearance of my new Superhero, GoAnimate Custom Character, Bat Storm (who cost me a coupon and 90 GoBucks to make).
  • At around the time of the release of this video I surpassed 1000 fans on GoAnimate - making me the fourth person on the entire site to do so.
I must admit I don't always look forward to starting GoAnimate Complaints Department episodes but once I get started, with my first few jokes done, it becomes a lot of fun.

They look easy to make, as evidenced by the number of people who've tried to do their own versions, but it actually takes a bit more effort to make it work without Happy Bunny coming off as sounding just plain mean.

Nature Photography with Domokun and Mr Usaji

My previous animation, Sneep Watching, started something of a mini cult following for the Sneep amongst Domo Animate users who included Sneep's in their animations.

Capitalizing on that success I decided to see what other custom critters I could make from the available props and objects on Domo Animate. In the end I came up with the Parra Tweet, a bird made from various head props in the Stick man theme.

Once I'd done that I needed an animation to feature the new bird. Since I'd already established Mr Usaji as a bit of a nature photographer in Sneep Watching I decided to continue the theme.

This time Mr Usaji attempts to show Domo the pleasures of nature photography but Domo doesn't quite get it. He's just too excited every time he spots something to take a photograph of.

Nature Photography with Domo and Mr Usaji by etourist

Like it? Create your own at DomoNation.com. It's free and fun!

As you can see I once again used limited frame animation to make the Parra Tweet fly. I get a lot of questions asking me how to do this but it really is just a question of adding really short, 0.2 of a second, scenes in the Domo Studio, then moving the bits of the Para Tweet I want to move just a little at a time. Just like old style animation really.

Script Writing for Animation - 3 Tips for better scripts

Having spent the last two years creating short animations for GoAnimate using my own original stories here are three of my best tips that I swear by when writing my scripts.

1. Use as few words as possible. 

I taught myself this on GoAnimate because I realized early that using speech bubbles instead of actual voices would slow the action down. You want people to be able to read your dialogue as quickly as possible so they don't become aware they're reading. This way they will still feel like they're watching a video and not reading an animated comic.

I later read in a book on how to script write for animation that professional animation script writers also aim for telling their stories in as few words as possible but for different reasons.

In animation it is still quite hard to lip sync a character to the dialogue. The longer you watch a single camera shot of a character talking the more aware you become that you're not watching a real human talk. You start to notice inconsistencies.

To get around this professional script writers change the camera view often, never allowing a character to say too much in a single shot.

Even better, if they can get a character to say dialogue off camera they will because, not only does this mean no lip syncing, it also allows for minor changes in dialogue after the drawn component of the animation is complete.

Hence you should review every line of dialogue and ask yourself,"Can the character say the same thing with less words?"

If you find you can't cut any words out then break the talking up over different camera shots to keep your scene visually interesting whilst delivering short bursts of dialogue in each shot.

2. Show don't tell.

Animation is a visual medium. It allows you to do so much more than film (excluding realistic 3D animation from the 'film' category and bringing it back to 'animation'). If your animation is just a bunch of talking heads you may have well as done it with film.

That said, if you follow tip 1, then you'll quickly realise the way to use less dialogue is to show more of what your character would have described in the dialogue before you trimmed it down.

Showing the action will also be more interesting to watch than long scenes of characters talking.

3. Off camera action is your friend.

Also as mentioned in tip 1, off camera dialogue is favoured quite a lot by professional animators and script writers to avoid lip syncing issues. However, off camera is also great for 'suggesting action'.

How important is it for the viewer to see an actual action performed? If it's not too important you can save a lot of animating time by using the off camera technique.

For small actions you can use the 'distraction' method where, for example, you focus the camera on one character talking whilst another character performs a simple action off camera. I give a more detailed explanation of this in my behind the scenes post for my Domokun animation, Tashanna and the City.

A simple example might be a scene in a bedroom. One character is standing and the other is in bed. You want the character in bed to get out of bed and stand but you don't want to animate it.

You could have the character in bed say "I'm getting up now" in shot. The next shot is of the standing character saying "Good because we don't want to be late.". In the next shot the character in bed is now sitting on the edge of the bed.

This technique works because when we view things in real life we know things can happen out of our range of vision. Be careful though, not to do too much off camera.

If, in the previous example, in the final shot, the character in bed was now fully dressed, standing and ready to go, it wouldn't work because we know he didn't have time to do all that in the time it took for the first character to say "Good because we don't want to be late".

For much more complex off screen action you can use a variation of the distraction technique - focusing the camera on other characters viewing the action - then use audio to suggest the sounds of what's going on off camera.

For example you have a fight scene but you don't want to animate the entire fight on camera. To break it up you could show people watching reacting to the sounds of the fight in progress (by doing this you can actually suggest the fight is much worse than anything you could show on camera).


Hopefully these three tips will help you when it comes to writing your own scripts. I've found the last one particularly helpful when I need to improvise something that would be too difficult to animate on GoAnimate.

If you have any other suggestions/tips for writing better scripts please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

A Win for Tigers, the WWF, TET and GoAnimate.

I'm happy to report that my Save the Tiger Animation (a still from the animation is on the right) was officially announced as the winner of GoAnimate's Creating for a Cause competition.

My animation featured Paul Dini and Misty Lee's Super Rica and Rashy characters humorously discussing the merits of adopting a tiger through the WWF and comparing the plight of wild tigers to that of the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger.

This is a win for Tigers because my animation, to date, has been viewed by more than 4100 people which is quite an achievement in its self for anyone who knows just how hard it is to promote a video online. Unless you're lucky enough to make an internet meme it takes a lot of effort to share a video around.

I really have to thank everyone who watched and shared the animation, especially my partner who's efforts managed to boost my placing in the finals (for number of views) from a shaky fourth to a comfortable third position. I think we've successfully raised some awareness of the wild tigers situation.

It's a win for the WWF because they will now receive a US$100.00 donation from GoAnimate and two weeks of advertising on GoAnimate's homepage. Saving the tiger is one of the WWF's featured initiatives for 2010 (which is the Chinese year of the tiger) so it's great this win will help get their work some more attention.

Obviously it's a win for me and yes I do get a prize. A very nice Wacom tablet. I've never used a graphics tablet before but I know you can create some really great art with them so I'm looking forward to receiving mine. Thanks to Wacom for providing a great prize.

The whole competition has been a big win for GoAnimate. Not only have they used their platform to help their members promote a whole bunch of worthy causes but also the need to share animations around will have no doubt lifted GoAnimate's online profile a few notches too. Thanks GoAnimate for an awesome competition.

All in all it was a great competition and a win for everyone with some really superb entries. If you're interested to see who the finalists were along with some special mentions for some outstanding entries that didn't make the final four then be sure to check out the official announcement on GoAnimate's Blog.

If you haven't seen my animation you can watch it here and read about some of the thinking behind it's creation. Then why not head over to the WWF's site and see what you can do to help save the tiger or some other endangered species or habitat.

Thanks everyone.
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