Princess Mononoke. Spirited Away. Howl's Moving Castle. All films packed with mystery and gravity, thanks largely to the imagination of Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki. In peeling back the layers of what makes these films so beloved, Miyazaki's vision first comes to mind, but the team of animators he oversees and the software that holds the whole crazy machine together are the unsung heroes behind them. That software is called Toonz and it's about to become a little bit less mysterious, as Cartoon Brew reports that an open-sourced edition will be available for download starting March 26.
Included in the OpenToonz are many of Ghibli's custom tools, specially designed to capture trees waving in the breeze, food that looks too delicious to eat, and the constant running Miyazaki's films are known for. In a statement on the Toonz website, Studio Ghibli Executive Imaging Director Atsushi Okui says they originally sought the software to cope with the complexity of 1995's Princess Mononoke. “We needed a software enabling us to create a certain section of the animation digitally," he says. "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."
Toonz, also the software used in Matt Groening's Futurama, is now available open-sourced as a condition of its sale from Italian tech company Digital Video to Japanese publisher Dwango. Those aiming to up its power can opt for a paid, premium version. This move, Digital Video managing director Claudio Mattei says, will help Toonz cement a place as the world standard in animation. We expect an uptick in high quality Totoro tribute films and animations inspired by the semi-retired animation legend while young animators are still in a position to play around and hone their styles. Now they can do so without spending an arm and a leg on animation software.
Check out what Studio Ghibli fans have accomplished, even without the company's favored software, in the links below. Download Toonz on the official website, starting March 26.