Animating is far more enjoyable when the characters you’re working with have a strong personality, and the recorded voice audio is of high quality. Cheese is an amazingly funny character from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, a great show on Cartoon Network. This Toon Boom tutorial will walk you through recreating this short commercial found on YouTube:
To complete this tutorial you will need to install Toon Boom, which is a trial you can download for free.
We will be using the five step plan to make your own cartoon:
Cheese is a well designed character in that he (she?) has only a handful of moving parts, but the personality still shines through regardless of his simplistic nature. The plan for this animation is:
- Prepare a custom color palette
- Create Cheese in Toon Boom, along with all necessary body parts
To create a custom palette select the Properties window, then select Palette > New Palette from the icon just to the right of the Name field. This will create a blank palette for you to start with.
Situate your browser window with the YouTube video so that you have easy access between the two applications. Pause the video somewhere in the middle so that you can easily select colors from it. Click on the plus icon to create a new color, then select the eyedropper tool and use it to choose one of the colors from the YouTube video. Repeat until you have all of the colors.
Notice that the background of the animation is not a static color, but is instead a radial gradient. To create a gradient in Toon Boom, check the gradient checkbox in the color property window. Use the guide arrows to choose the appropriate gradient color to change. Make sure that the radial direction option is chosen instead of the linear direction.
Now we can start creating Cheese in layers. Mmmm, layered cheese…
I think I need dinner soon.
Bring up your Camera View and use the bottommost drawing layer to sketch out Cheese. We’re not trying to duplicate the character flawlessly, be loose and free and try to target the primary elements. This sketch will be a guide for the layers to come.
Looking at the animation, we can determine that there needs to be 5 layers:
- upper head
- body (which includes the bottom part of the mouth)
While it would be acceptable to simply include the eyes on the upper head layer, it is advisable to make any complex bits be on its own layer. That way you can edit the eyes with ease and not have to worry about correcting the head itself.
Add five layers by clicking on the plus icon in the Timeline window, choosing “Drawing” as the type of layer. Take the time to label the layers as well. Note the order of the layers, as those higher up will appear above the layers below.
We have also come across a common scenario, where we want one layer to be a child of another layer, but the child layer needs to appear in front of the parent layer. Toon Boom automatically places all child layers behind the parental layer. To properly attach Cheese’s eyes to the head you’ll need to first drag the eye layer in the Timeline window on top of the upper head layer. You’ll see it indented to indicate that it is now going to mimic its parent.
To pull the eyes in front of the head you’ll need the use of the Top View camera. Go to Window > Top View, and you’ll see a yellow field with green lines representing the individual layers. If you select the eyes layer in the Timeline window you should see the green line for it in the Top View window. Using the Top View, drag the green line for the eyes down a small amount to bring them closer to the camera and thus, in front of the head. The eyes will still continue to mimic the movement of the head, but will now appear in front of the head.
The next planning step is to make sure each moving part has its pivot point in the proper place. Only two parts will be moving in our animation, the upper head (and its child, the eyes), and the arm.
Select the arm layer from the Timeline window, then select the Rotate tool from the Scene Operation tools. Drag the central pivot point over to where his arm meets the shoulder. Now when we rotate the arm it will pivot at the shoulder properly.
Apply the same technique with the head layer, moving the pivot point to the back of Cheese’s head so that it will open and close like a can opener.
The final step is to draw the second eye we know we’ll need, which we see during the whispered “I’m pretty” line. It is acceptable to add this in the Animating step of this process, but since we know we’ll need it let’s simply add it now. Planning is all about making the Animating step as easy as possible.
Add a second frame on the eye layer and draw the second version of the eye, using a paused version of the YouTube video to draw from. You can then delete the frame from the Timeline window, without fear of deleting the drawing itself. The drawing still exists within the Cells panel of the Properties window, happily waiting until we need it.
At this point you can delete the initial sketch you did, to keep your project tidy.
Cheese is voiced by the crazy-talented Candi Milo. She is also the voice of Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory. I don’t expect you to try to record yourself imitating Cheese (although that could be fun). I recorded the audio for you. It’s tough to get that final “I’m pretty” because he’s almost whispering it.
Add the sound file to your Toon Boom project by going to File > Import File, and then navigating to the MP3 you just downloaded. Toon Boom will automatically add the sound file to a new layer. Select View > Show Sound Waveforms to see the sound file’s modulations. This will make lip syncing easier. Also, go to Play > Turn Sound Playback On to make sure you can hear the audio.
Yes! Finally! You’ve been so patient so far are itching to get to the fun part. Please take a moment to notice how much planning went into getting to this point. To do it properly, animation is not a jump-right-on-in kind of task. It is arduous, taxing and oh so rewarding when the day is done.
Since Cheese is performing a very simplistic lip sync (instead of using more human-like “TH”, “W” or “L” phonemes) we only need to flip his upper head as if it were on a hinge. Select the upper head layer on about frame 7. Select the Transform tool, and then set a keyframe (either by right-clicking on the frame and choosing “Add Keyframe” or by using the shortcut you’ve set).
Complete the rest of the mouth animation by listening to the audio, comparing it with the YouTube version and adding keyframes with the Transform tool.
Cheese also moves his arm upward on the whispered “I’m pretty” line. So select that layer and place a keyframe around frame 56. Then select frame 60 and rotate the arm upward. The transform tool will automatically place a keyframe for you this way.
The final animating step is to change his eyes for the “I’m pretty” line. Select the eyes layer on frame 58, then make sure you can see the Properties window. Select the Cells pane of the window, then move the cell slider to the right to see the second set of eyes you drew. The drawing of the eyes will change in the Timeline.
You can prepare the animation as it currently is as an AVI movie, to upload to sites like YouTube. Or you can import the movie into Flash to upload to sites like Newgrounds.
To export the cartoon to a Quicktime movie go to File > Export Movie. Set the Export Format to Quicktime Movie and choose a proper destination to save the final file. Click on the Options button and change the settings to the following:
- Depth: Millions of Colors
- Quality: Medium
- Frame rate: 15
- Key frame rate: 1
Only up the quality to its highest settings if the cartoon will be on TV. The resulting file size is ginormous.
Once exported, you should be able to upload your movie to YouTube. Here’s my final version (at a svelte 5.6 megs):
To prepare the cartoon for Flash you will first need the Toon Boom Studio Importer. Install this before you open Flash.
Open up Flash and select Create New Flash Document. Change the properties of the file to match our Toon Boom file:
- Width: 425
- Height: 350
- Frame Rate: 15
Now go to File > Import > Import to Stage. Navigate to your Toon Boom file and double click on it to see its interior .tbp file. Select that and click on Import. A new window will come up with more options. Make sure “All Frames”, “Import sounds”, “Apply sound edits”, “Preserve layers” are all checked. Also make sure that “Create new scenes” is not checked, then select ok.
Flash will busy itself importing the file for a moment. We need to add two things:
- Actionscript to make the animation stop at the beginning and the end
- An invisible button to make the animation play when clicked.
If you add a keyframe (F6) on the final frame of the animation and then go to Window > Actions you will see a new window appear. Type in “stop();”, to make the animation stop on the final frame instead of looping infinitely.
Apply the same keyframe to the first frame of the animation, so that the cartoon does not start playing automatically.
To make the invisible button first create a new layer and call it “button”. Add a rectangle (of any color) over all of the animation, completely covering it. Select the rectangle then go to Modify > Convert to Symbol. Select Button as the symbol type and give it an appropriate name. Select the rectangle on the stage and in the properties window select Color > Alpha and then set the slider to 0%. This will make the button appear invisible.
Now we’re going to make the button start the animation. Click on it and then open the Actions window again. Add this code:
You should now be able to publish the Flash file and get something like this (click anywhere to play):
And that’s it gentle readers. Normally you should distribute your cartoon so all the world can see it, but that step will be skipped since this is merely a tutorial. If you’re interested in something a bit more basic, please try the introductory Toon Boom tutorial.
The 5 step animation process can serve you well. Follow it and internet glory is sure to follow.