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Posted on Friday, November 10th, 2006

Dave!I'm not a very good blogger because I don't really write for an audience. When I sit down to create my daily entry, I just hammer out whatever pops into my head and don't really think about whether or not people will want to read it. The fact that anybody ever does is a source of constant amazement to me. That's why I never know how to feel on those rare occasions when somebody feels the need to tell me what I should or shouldn't be writing here.

Because, well, seriously... it's not like anybody is paying me for this. I'll write what I want to... even if it means there will be a periodic entry about wiping my ass or some other strange crap.

But I got a curious half-dozen emails asking me how I was creating my animation, and wanting to know everything from what tools I draw with to how I come up with my ideas. Rather than keep answering each one separately, I decided to just go ahead and answer them all at once in an extended entry. In addition, I'll post an occasional sketch, storyboard graphic, or frame of animation as a teaser for what I'm up to. It's not something I had planned on (because I don't want to spoil the surprise) but it's kind of nice to have some feedback every once in a while.

DaveToon Disco

So, if this kind of stuff interests you, by all means carry on reading. Otherwise, tomorrow I'll be back whining about something else.


Once my big plans for doing a monthly "DaveToon Talk Show" had to be pushed back, I still wanted to do something with animation. At first this was going to be a fake television commercial for DSN (the Dave Shopping Network), but eventually I settled on doing a music video instead.

Deciding what to animate and which song to choose was a daunting task. An unwise selection of either would cause no end of frustration, and nobody wants that. The original song I picked had lyrics that I would use to tell a story, but I was worried that my inexperience would cause problems when I was forced to animate something I didn't know how to do. So I put that song aside for next time, and picked a different song that was more open to interpretation so I could just draw whatever I wanted.

One thing I very much wanted to do was animate a variety different things so I wouldn't get bored. This meant creating a story which had dozens of different locations and scenarios. There are scenes underwater, on a pirate ship, in a jungle, and many others... even on the moon! By taking Lil' Dave and Bad Monkey to places they've never been before, it will be a more exciting project for me (though, long-time Blogography fans will find a few familiar bits sprinkled in).


All of my drawing is done with Adobe Illustrator. You can buy it for around $499 by itself, or as part of Adobe's Creative Suite for $899 (which is quite a bargain, because it includes Photoshop, a $649 program that I use regularly for retouching photos and enhancing Adobe Illustrator artwork). If the price tag is a bit out of reach, Mac users should check out LineForm, which is a $79 program that's pretty sweet. A totally free option is Inkscape, which is available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux.

The cartoons I draw here are pretty crude and simplistic because I don't have a lot of time to spend on them. But don't let that fool you, Illustrator is capable of creating amazing artwork. It's not a very easy program to master, but your patience in learning the various tools (especially the enigmatic "pen tool") will be rewarded.

All of my animating is done with Toon Boom Studio, a $399 program that's available for Mac and Windows. It's a very comprehensive animation tool with a mind-boggling array of features. A less-expensive option is Toon Boom Express, a $99 package which lacks some of the more advanced features of Studio, but is perfectly capable of making great animations. I should also note that both versions of Toon Boom have pretty good drawing tools, so you don't really have to buy Illustrator (or LineForm or whatever)... I did it because I've been using the program for twenty years and am more comfortable sticking with what I know.

Animations can be completed entirely within Toon Boom and exported from there, but a few of my sequences are being hand-animated in Illustrator as a "special effect" so I am using Apple's Final Cut Pro (from the miraculous Final Cut Studio) to assemble everything. This is huge overkill for most people, but I already have the program and know how to use it, so I'm happy to use it for edits since I'm not that familiar with how to do it in ToonBoom.


I do not use clip-art, and draw everything by hand. I am comfortable using the trackpad on my PowerBook to draw, but am equally comfortable with a mouse. I have a graphics tablet but only use it for painting.

Since I've done storyboard work for the film industry before, I understand their value in getting a handle on the entire project, and decided to use them for my video. Every scene has been drawn out with the song lyrics, so I know exactly what needs to be done. This also allows me to jump around the project and still know where I am at. I've changed my mind a few times, but am sticking to the storyboard "script" pretty closely.

I always animate the characters first, then build the backgrounds around them. This may seem backwards, but since the character animation is by far the hardest part... I'd rather not have the additional burden of trying to make things fit into a background while I'm drawing.

The character of Lil' Dave was created for my Hard Rock site years ago. When I first used him for my blog, and created Bad Monkey, it was just a throw-away joke. I had no idea back then that they would become such an important part of my blog. Unfortunately, this kind of poor planning means they were never meant to be animated, and getting them to move in any believable way is extremely difficult. I had originally planned on hiring somebody to create 3-D models of them so I could study how they look from different angles, but I could never find a LightWave artist to work with. Instead, I just created character sheets and did my best to guess how they should look. It's not perfect, but it seems to be working okay.

The animation "style" I am choosing is somewhere between South Park and Ren and Stimpy. It uses some strange jumps from time to time, but I am attempting to have the movement look at least a little fluid. It's a lot harder than it looks. Worst of all, it's time consuming. I regularly find myself spending 20 minutes to an hour on some tiny detail that I thought would take a minute to do. With this in mind, it helps to have a lot of patience.

I do not have a timetable. I try to devote an hour or two each night, but it all depends on my schedule. It would be nice to have a solid week to work on things, but that's probably not going to happen. I guess that's for the best, because then it might seem more like work, but I do worry that I'll get impatient and quit since it's going to take weeks (months?) to finish up.


... there you have it. Prepare to be totally amazed in a month or two!

Categories: DaveToons 2006, TooncastingClick To It: Permalink


  1. Jeff says:

    It’s hard to believe Bad Monkey is almost 3! Monkeys, they grow up so fast. *sniff*

  2. Laurence says:

    I become increasingly impatient. The foreground is brilliant.

    It is great that you show the artist’s work (the investissement of time, work and money) which is often underestimated compared to devoted time.

    The fact that I read you (and leave comments every day) is also an incredible amazement. I always seek to understand, to find pieces of answer (in the life in general) because to put words on our evils helps with better felling good. But for you, Dave, I always seek. All that I know, it is that I want to read you and to make comments. Then, I do it, it is all. But, it is a little odd for me, even intriguing. I would like so much to find an answer. Perhaps because the relation “blogger” with “readers” is a real but a very virtual relation at the same time, therefore very paradoxical. With a very strong desire to better know the person to reveal a certain mystery. Yes, it is perhaps that, it is perhaps because there is a mystery in this relation which she is very intriguing and very jouissive at the same time…

    So… I’ll continue to read you… You know… we all have our cross to bear… And for you… it is me (and my english mistakes)!!! πŸ˜€

  3. diane says:

    Wow, almost three? I can’t believe it took so long for me to get an e-mail that said, “Diane, you have to look at the Philosophy entry this guy did. His whole blog will crack you up!”
    You bring a bit of amusement and happiness into the world, Dave, as well as a fun sense of community, and that’s a pretty nice thing. Plus, we are all in awe of your mad skeelz.
    The disco teaser is almost too much!! Awesome!

  4. Bre says:

    Delightful… and way above my skill set!

  5. yellojkt says:

    That is some serious effort. I can’t even figure out how to make wacky credits in Premiere Elements. This having a day job is stiffling me.

  6. Richard says:

    I’ve just recently been turned on to your blog, Li’l Dave and Bad Monkey and I find it all amazingly hilarious. I’ve even gone back through your archives a little and know why people could get hooked on reading you. It’s your style of writing where you are typing it as you say it. In depth, but not alot of thought as to say the right thing. Perfect!

    Very stoked for the final outcome, I’m sure it will be awesome. Can you give away a little more by telling us the song? Keep at it and I’m sure you’ll have a great finished product. Have you thought about a “get-together” to release this little project of yours? A viewing, persay?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sweet dance floor. Omar will love it (he thinks your stuff is HILARIOUS) he’s about to put in a second dance floor in his igloo on Club Penguin.

    “I’m not a very good blogger because I don’t really write for an audience. When I sit down to create my daily entry, I just hammer out whatever pops into my head and don’t really think about whether or not people will want to read it. The fact that anybody ever does is a source of constant amazement to me. That’s why I never know how to feel on those rare occasions when somebody feels the need to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be writing here.”

    Precisely what makes you a great blogger IMO. Real. Humble. Cathartic. What’s not to like about that PLUS it’s easy to look at. Perfect!

    I’m glad you wrote about how you illustrate. I have wondered, but never asked. My version of Adobe was liberated from a friend’s computer and I have since have lost it. It was a bit more than I required, so it’s good to have your thoughts on Toon Boom.

    Looking forward to being amazed.


  8. nancycle says:


    anon = me

    …..I amaze myself sometimes….

  9. Charred says:

    If I don’t have a graphics tablet (and I currently don’t), I can’t draw for spit on my computer.

  10. You mentioned painting with a graphics tablet. What software do you use with that?

  11. adena says:

    Aww….I don’t even LIKE disco, and I like that!

    You know I’m jealous over your cartooning skills, whether or not you think they’re “basic”.

    Can’t wait to see the dance montage!

  12. sultana says:

    Dave, you amaze me! I can’t wait to see your toon. It’s gonna rock πŸ˜€

  13. Belinda says:

    I love that you’re doing this. Oh, and also the irony of linking back to a post in which you expand about “never being sick,” given the year you’ve had this year! See what happens when you say (or type) it out loud?

  14. Mike says:

    Not a good blogger?

    Let’s see: One entry per day, clever comments, really nice graphics, excellent sense of humor, top writing skills…

    Seriously. Dave. Come on.


  15. Kevin says:

    Damn. When I saw the title in my feed reader, I thought you were going to give a review of the new DVD0-ripper/burner software, Disco. Alas. If you did, I was going to ask how the hell you got it to work, because, for the life of me, I can’t figure the damn thing out.

    What happened to your feeds, BTW? I only get titles now.

  16. annie says:

    I LOVE Illustrator. I’m neurotic and a perfectionist, so I love the clean lines it creates.

  17. Lisa says:

    You say you aren’t a good blogger? OMG I always feel unworthy of leaving comments! Like they are subpar compared to the illustrations and writing.

    Like I’m not worthy!

    OMG, I feel like I’m having a Wayne’s World moment.

    (queue Queen please…)

  18. claire says:

    Cool. Thanks for sharing some of the process and for the links. I’m off to check out inkscape now…

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