Making cartoons is great fun - say the people who can actually afford the pleasure. That barrier has fallen, as you can now download free animation software - specifically OpenToonz from Github, which is a free, open source version of Toonz, the software used by none other than Studio Ghibli

Yes, that’s right, the renowned Japanese studio behind high-grossing films including anime - such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo - has made its animation software Toonz free and open source for both commercial and non-commercial projects in a move that will have possibly powerful (and undoubtedly cool) effects on the animation industry. Developers can also freely modify the source code. 

Major Japanese publisher Dwango acquired Toonz off its developer, Italian tech company Digital Video, on the condition it developed an Open Source platform, which is called OpenToonz - and is nicknamed Toonz Ghibli Edition, as it includes features developed by the famed animation house.

Dwango also released effects plug-ins for image processing such as lighting and distortion, as well as GTS, a scanning tool developed by Studio Ghibli that works with OpenToonz - all also for free. 

“We are happy to hear that this open source version contains the Ghibli Edition,” says Mr Atsushi Okui, Executive Imaging Director at Studio Ghibli. “We hope that many people inside and outside of the animation industry will utilise this software for their work. We would like to extend our gratitude to the staff of Digital Video.”

The software - which can work with hand-drawn and entirely digital animations -also includes research labs where the animation film industry can cooperate and share ideas, implementation and training. See the (slightly odd) demo video below. 

Claudio Mattei, Managing Director at Digital Video, says the contract “has enabled Digital Video to realize one of its strategies, i.e. to make of Toonz a world standard for 2D animation. 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.”

Since its release in 1993, Toonz has forged impressive 2D animation history. Aside from Studio Ghibil’s work  - after being first used on Princess Mononoke (1999) - Toonz has also been used in Futurama, Asterix, The Simpsons Movie and video games such as Discworld 2.  

And now - well, who knows the future of the software? Professional tools are now available to anyone (and a premium version at a “very competitive price”).

Hopefully, open sourcing means Toonz has a future that matches its rich history. Just keep in mind that professional tools won't instantly make you a professional animator - and this software takes times to get to grips with.