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April 14, 2014

How I made a terrible cartoon using Adobe Flash

In my latest article, I plan to go in a different direction and reflect on an interesting task that I accomplished recently… It wasn’t necessarily something that I triumphantly thwarted, but it was completed nonetheless. This week, we’ll be looking at my brief foray into animation!

During our usual mundane weekdays, in between balancing our jobs and/or school, it gets pretty tough to actually schedule time for ourselves and be able to reflect on some thoughts without having them interrupted by the usual distractions (Internet, TV, our peers- take your pick).

However, when a time arises where we could actually get away from our responsibilities and relax for a bit, certain creative ideas could pop up in our minds. Now it doesn’t mean that they’re all realistic, but some could lead to new hobbies. For example, if you were always interested in learning how to play a certain instrument, or want to “test the waters” (cliché count: 2) and find out how the stock market operates. In my case, I used to make some independent films a few years back (some were decent for our experience level at the time, and some…should never be viewed while sober), and after viewing one of them for the first time in quite a while, the idea to try and create a half-assed cartoon crossed my mind.  With such a rigorous task ahead of me (and time to spare), I was off to learn about the process.

Being new to the animation game (I somehow pictured DMX telling me that it wasn’t a game, although much more explicitly…), I skimmed through a few articles (with some assistance from my long-time acquaintance, Google) and learned that Adobe Flash, a program that is used for animation and is quite user-friendly for novice users such as myself, would be one of the keys to my goal. Before I could use Adobe Flash and get started, I needed something that would prove to be quite important: A PLAN! What would this supposed cartoon be about, and why am I doing this (trust me, when trying something new, that phrase will be repeated multiple times)?

Here’s a brief list of what I needed before I started to get to work:

A Script:

The blueprint of this entire project. I picked out my genre, created some characters, and structured the events that would happen in the animated short.

A recording setup:

Since the title of this article is how to “sloppily” make a cartoon, I didn’t spring for a professional setup- I just used a microphone, a jack to plug it into my computer’s microphone port, and a sound recording program that I found on the ‘net entitled, “Gold Wave”.

Adobe Photoshop or MS Paint: 

To create your characters and backgrounds- For some reason, I wanted to use popsicle sticks as my character templates.  I imported a pic of a popsicle stick into Photoshop, then used the program to design each character.


Time to kill:

I cannot stress this enough!

Once I had these things completed, it was time to roll into the deep and get started with Adobe Flash!  While referencing some tutorials from the WWW, I imported the backgrounds and characters that I created with Photoshop, and set up each scene accordingly- I placed the characters that I needed for each specific scene into the positions that I envisioned them in, and took a crash course in keyframe editing.

Keyframes are the link to breathing life into static pictures and producing movement; I was able to make my characters bounce around their environment for the first time!  After puffing an imaginary cigarette, I was able to understand the simple concept- If I wanted a character to jump up, I would create a keyframe for a neutral position… when I wanted to start the jump animation, I would select a point where I would want it to start occurring (Would I want it to happen after 3 seconds? 2 seconds? The choice is yours!), I would then slightly move the character upwards and create a second keyframe. After another second, I would move the character to the maximum height that I’d want it to reach and create yet another keyframe for that- Success!

I would then repeat the process to make that character come back to its starting position. Creating movements for each character was a daunting task, but after some much needed patience and motivation (in between work and having some time to spare, it took me about two weeks to finish), each scene was finally completed.


After exporting each scene into a Quicktime video format (.mov; I did this so I could use the flash animations in a video editing program), I then proceeded to the final step of my radical adventure- Adding the voices and finalizing the video.  Most video editing programs should support this… I ended up using Sony Vegas, but Windows Movie Maker should also work just fine- it’s been included in every version of Windows since XP.  To accomplish this, I pretty much just imported my saved flash animations from AF and my previous sound recordings from Goldwave into the editing program, then lined up the audio to the correct portions of the animations (using the word “portions” for a topic that doesn’t relate to food usually helps me think that I’m intelligent).


Nearing completion of this quarter-life crisis, I then previewed the video to check it for any glaring errors (for example, I needed to add a few extra sound effects that I missed previously, so I quickly recorded some with my trusty iPod Touch).  At this point, I started to “smell the roses” (4 clichés in one article?!)- converting this video to a format that would be Youtube friendly was just a click away (I highlighted everything in my project and saved the video as a .WMV file, aka. a Windows Media Video- the file size is much smaller this way while having decent quality for online video streaming sites).

What did I do once this side project was finally put to rest?  Oh yeah- I gleefully pumped my fist in the air (It was eerily similar to the final scene with Bender in The Breakfast Club…minus the leather glove he was wearing).


Here’s the final product- You could immediately notice how much of a rush job this is, and how crude the animations are… The voices are all done by myself, which you could tell by the lack of variety in each character’s diction, and it’s thrown together quite sloppily.  Regardless, I could finally claim to have made an animated short from scratch with no prior knowledge of animation (and very novice artistic skills)- it still isn’t an excuse for the plot holes and laziness in the voice acting department, but I still want to steal 6 minutes from each of your lives to show off some of my awkward humour- enjoy, and flame away!