I try to keep a pretty level head about most topics, from the big ones to the small stuff. Normally the “right answer” is somewhere in the middle and not at the extremes. Who really likes reading an editorial that plays it safe, though? Today I’ll be telling you why as an animator, you shouldn’t touch Adobe Flash with a ten-foot pole, and if it’s on your computer right now the “Delete” button should be your next move.

It is very likely that I would not be “an animator” if it had not been for Adobe Flash. Or truthfully I should say if it had not been for MACROMEDIA Flash version 5. I first began animating after seeing Homestarrunner.com and learning of this magical program that would let even a simpleton like me live that glorious dream I had always wanted to live. I worked several freelance jobs designing logos and marketing and used the proceeds to buy a copy of Flash 5, immediately diving into the world of animation! Well, I perhaps should put quotes around “animation” as my early attempts seen here are barely animated at all.

The audio was crude, everything was stiff and lifeless, and there are a few visual tangents in there that make me want to go back in time and punch myself in the face, but I was finally doing what I had always dreamed. I was animating. And for that I will forever be grateful to Macromedia and their little interactive-web-media.

Fast Forward Eight Years.

After almost a decade of working with Flash, the quirks of the program were mostly known to me. It’s propensity to crash, the terrible, TERRIBLE drawing tools that “auto-correct” your lines to be no where near the lines you intended, occasional tweens that broke every symbol in every layer in the file. The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was when I discovered there was a limit to the number of frames a project could have. When I created this cartoon, I had to break it up into several pieces because Flash destroyed the audio sync by the end of several minutes of video. Enough was enough.

In Search Of Something Better

Unlike the early 2000s, I knew that I had a few more options in front of me, so I set out to see what might be best. I had used Digicel Flipbook back in animation school, however (probably mostly due to the lousy computers there) it had a tendency to crash every 2.5 minutes and drove me absolutely crazy. I gave it another shot, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. Next up I downloaded the free trial of Toon Boom Animate.

That’s where the search ended.

Toon Boom is a dream come true for an animator who has spent years battling with Flash to do the simplest things. The brush tool alone won me over, and shortly after I did this quick simple cartoon to celebrate my discovery:

It’s very simple: Toon Boom is designed for animators. Flash is not. At some point, people figured out that Flash COULD be used to animate, and from there history was changed. We shall be forever thankful for that, and now it is time to let the past be the past and move on. Because Flash, for animators, is NOT the future.

Where Flash Succeeds and Why It Doesn’t Matter

Flash is easy to learn, I’ll give it that. The learning curve in Toon Boom was intense, and I’m still only early in the process. I also hear great things about TVPaint. My point is not to sell you on Toon Boom (or TVPaint, or any particular program) so much as to UNsell you on Adobe Flash. Flash still does a lot of things very well. One of those things is NOT animation.

“But there are a lot of great Flash animators out there who have made great animation!”
you may remind me, desperate to not let go of Flash yourself. This is true. The point is not that you CAN’T succeed with Flash, it is that you can succeed faster, better, and with less gray hair springing up if you choose one of the other excellent made-for-animation programs on the market.

If you want to truly move forward as an animator, it’s time to let go of the little kids’ bike with the training wheels and learn to ride an adult bicycle. You might fall off a few times, and really consider going back to the little tyke bike that never falls over, but you’d be doing yourself a disfavor. There is no future for you with Flash. Take the plunge now and save yourself some serious grief down the road. And if you are just beginning to learn animation, don’t fall victim to what so many hobbyists are doing by using Flash instead of a real animation program. It is the easy path and the road well traveled, but it is not worth it in the long run. Flash is simply not meant to be for animators, and with each new version Adobe is moving farther away from what would be best for US and putting in more features for others, such as web designers.

Adam Phillips, ex-Disney animator and creator of Brackenwood, puts it this way:

“When it comes to animation, [Flash] it’s capable of a lot, but it’s still a toy. Good for learning and a bit of fun, but the better you get at animating in Flash (especially if you want to take your animation outside of the SWF format), the more frustrating it becomes.”


As an artist, you may be well aware of the trap the “easy” path presents. I think we’ve all walked down it at some point, only to look back and slap our foreheads thinking “Why did I waste so much time?” In case no one ever told you: Art is hard. We do not do art because it is easy, but because we are passionate about it or find it worthwhile. Do not waste your time if “animator” is a goal you have for yourself. Learn the programs meant for animation, and leave Adobe Flash to the designers and programmers that it was created for. The You-of-Tomorrow will thank you for it.

Agree? Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s talk about it. I’ve love to hear your opinion.

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