Animation software used by Studio Ghibli goes open source

A prominent piece of software used by Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli is about to go open source for independent animators. Known as Toonz, the software has played an important part in the development of several Studio Ghibli films over the years, as well as being used in popular animated TV series like Futurama. As part of an acquisition deal, Toonz's creators are releasing the previously enterprise-only software as open source on March 26th.

The software serves as a bridge between the traditional use of pen and paper and modern, paperless animation production methods. The tools help speed up the process of scanning and cleanup of drawings, along with inking, editing and animating, and compositing.

Toonz was first used by Studio Ghibli in 1995 when creating Princess Mononoke, and went on to play a part in other masterpieces like Spirited Away. The studios' Executive Imaging Director, Atsushi Okui, notes that they chose Toonz because it not only allowed them to "continue producing theater-quality animation without additional stress," but it had "the ability to combine the hand-drawn animation with the digitally painted ones seamlessly."

The software previously cost as much as $10,000 per license, but as part of the agreement seeing Digital Video, the company responsible for Toonz, acquired by Japanese media company Dwango, the Toonz Studio Ghibli Version is being made open source. This version of the software includes tools and features co-developed with Studio Ghibli when they were making Princess Mononoke.