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Storytime Animation: An Animation Trend That's Here to Stay

ben marvazi 2020

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“If you’re sitting in your minivan, playing your computer-animated films for your children in the back seat, is it the animation that’s entertaining you as you drive and listen? No, it’s the storytelling. That’s why we put so much importance on story. No amount of great animation will save a bad story.”

John Lasseter

Storytime animation is one of those animation styles that is accessible to literally everyone: Audiences love it, and animators find them easy to create. 

If not for YouTube, storytime animations likely wouldn’t have existed. This style of animation emerged during a time when it seemed like YouTube was no longer a favorable platform for animators. 

Many gave up once YouTube made major changes to its algorithm that required creators to upload more frequently. Animators simply couldn’t keep up, and many left the platform for good, except for two animators who decided that they were going to try something no one’s ever tried before: storytime animation. 

This style of animation was born out of the need to keep creating on a platform that was ever-changing, and now this style of animation dominates YouTube. But what is storytime animation? And should freelance animators take a jab at it, or is it just another animation trend that will disappear as quickly as it emerged?

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into how storytime animation originated, what sets it apart from other animation styles, and how freelance animators can use it to further their careers in this ever-changing industry.

What Is Storytime Animation?

Those who are familiar with storytime animation know that it’s basically exclusive to YouTube. These animation videos are usually fairly short and are basically vlogs, except for the fact that they are animated and don’t showcase real people like classic vlogs. 

The animated character represents the channel’s host and usually conveys comedic stories or experiences that viewers can relate to. 

storytime animation is a new genre for animators

Gif by PBS Kids via Giphy

Storytime animation has become one of the most popular animations on YouTube, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Thanks to storytime animation providing people with relatable entertainment, it is responsible for strong online communities and has millions of fans across the globe. 

Storytime animation, unlike most other animation styles, aren’t fictional – it focuses on the creator’s real-life experiences and takes viewers on the journey with them, just like the modern-day vlogs that are massively popular on YouTube.

How did Storytime Animation Originate?

YouTube wasn’t always the leading platform for animation videos, but it led to the creation of storytime animation. Before YouTube, animators found success on a platform called Newgrounds, which was founded in 1995. 

Newgrounds provided animators with a community and a place to share their work. This led to many animated cartoons being uploaded, and animators started to build fanbases for themselves. 

Unfortunately, Newgrounds didn’t provide creators with any sort of revenue, so when YouTube arrived and launched its Partner Program in 2008, many animators jumped ship and joined the platform. 

the origins of storytime animation

Gif by National Geographic via Giphy

Thanks to their ability to make money from YouTube, animators could improve the quality of their animations, attracting more viewers. In fact, the years between 2008 and 2012 are seen as the golden age of online animation. 

During this time, video game parodies or comedic sketches were very popular. YouTube rewarded videos according to the number of views they got, which was great for animators because producing animated videos can be time-consuming. 

They could produce short videos and upload every now and then and still see great revenue. However, once YouTube changed its algorithm to favor watch time and upload frequency, animators realized they needed to adapt – and fast.   

Longer videos were the new money makers, and many animators ended up leaving YouTube because they simply couldn’t keep up with the new algorithm. It seemed like all was lost, but then two animators decided to try something entirely new, and storytime animation was born.        

Two YouTube Creators Started the Trend of Storytime Animation

If you’re a freelance animator who enjoys doing storytime animation, you can thank YouTube animators and creators sWooZie and Domics for thinking outside of the box during a time when it seemed like animation no longer had a place on YouTube. 

They took inspiration from a trend that started shortly after YouTube changed its algorithm: vlogs. 

storytime animations started with only a few animators

Gif by ChannelFrederator via Giphy

They started to experiment with vlog-style animation, and it started to pick up steam. Whereas traditional vlogs showcased a real person giving people a glimpse into their lives, storytime animation flipped the concept on its head and had animated characters telling the creators’ everyday stories. It was a vlog, but animated. 

It brought something different altogether to the platform, and it didn’t take up nearly as much time as the traditional animations that used to rule YouTube, thanks to a simpler animation style, which we’ll discuss a little later in this blog. 

When Did Storytime Animation Become Popular?

Once YouTubers sWooZie and Domics realized there was potential for storytime animation to be profitable on the platform, they started adapting the style permanently, and by the time 2015 rolled around, they both boasted a million subscribers. 

That period became known as “the second wave of YouTube animation,” or storytime animation, and smaller YouTube channels started adapting the storytime animation style.

Why Does Storytime Animation Work So Well?

Storytime animation did and continues to work well and draw big audiences, and it might have to do with its unique and personal style that speaks to the audience directly, something other styles of animation don’t typically do. 

It created a shift from fictional animation stories to animation that represents real life. However, there are likely two main reasons storytime animation works so well. 

1) Lower Skill Levels Are Needed to Produce It

Thanks to the fact that storytime animation doesn’t require tons of detail like traditional animation, it can be produced more quickly, which means creators can upload more frequently. Storytime animation is also more accessible to animators just starting out because of its simplistic style. 

lower level skills can still create sotrytime animations

Gif by ChannelFrederator via Giphy

Storytime animation does exactly what the YouTube algorithm requires: It can be produced at a reasonable pace so creators can upload frequently and is a little longer to accommodate more watch time. 

Creators are also able to adapt their storytime animation content as the algorithm changes. Finally, thanks to this new style of animation, animators can generate an income on YouTube.

2) It Encourages Audience Participation

While traditional animation typically tells fictional and entertaining stories, storytime animation almost always consists of non-fictional stories. Because of its vlogging-like style, storytime animation recounts real-life events, often touching on subjects that are funny, meaningful, and relatable to viewers. 

Two YouTube channels, in particular, TheOdd1sOut and JaidenAnimations, became wildly popular in 2016. This was largely due to their ability to share relatable stories through engaging animation. 

storytime animation engages an audience to follow your animations

Gif by pikaole via Giphy

By 2017, more animators jumped on the trend and YouTube exploded with storytime animation content. This animation style connected with audiences on another level and animators finally had a way to keep up with YouTube’s ever-changing algorithm. 

In fact, storytime animation became so popular that it was featured on the 2018 YouTube Rewind. Out of the six animation channels that were featured, five were storytime animation channels. That was a sure sign that storytime animation was the new trend on YouTube and a potential moneymaker.

What are the Characteristics of Storytime Animation?

If you’re a freelance animator interested in trying storytime animation for yourself, whether to make an extra income on YouTube or to utilize it for client projects, you’ll need a few pointers on what makes storytime animation different from traditional animation styles. 

Let’s have a look at what sets storytime animation apart from its traditional counterparts. 

1) It’s Simplistic

Storytime animation is incredibly simplistic, as in, the character details are sparse and backgrounds are sometimes left blank. Many creators’ cartoon avatars look almost the same, except for distinguishing features like their hair color and style. 

storytime animation is simplistic yet engaging

Gif by 157ofgemma via Giphy

These cartoon characters are usually featured speaking to an imaginary camera (like a traditional vlogger would do in real life) and if backgrounds are added to the video, they’re usually very simplistic drawings of a specific scene.

2) Storytime Animation Doesn’t Adhere to Typical Animation Standards 

Along with the simplistic drawings associated with storytime animation, it also doesn’t necessarily adhere to the usual animation standards. 

It’s not created frame-by-frame, sometimes the dialogue isn’t lip-synced, and often the animations aren’t even fully colored. Characters’ movements aren’t necessarily flawless, and sometimes there’s a noticeable delay between frames. 

storytime animation isnt your typical animations

Screenshot from TheOdd1sOut via YouTube

Some storytime animators, however, like to incorporate a bit of traditional animation into this style. Domics’ storytime animations, for example, sometimes featured the smoother and more realistic movement sequences that are typically associated with traditional animations. 

He did, however, keep to the other standards of storytime animation. His counterpart, SwooZie, created some of their first storytime animations through deliberately roughly-drawn characters and backgrounds. 

As with all other animation styles, animators can play around with storytime animations and add a dash of other animation styles into their work as they please and still stay authentic to the original look. The possibilities are endless. 

3) Animators Can Easily Do Storytime Animation By Themselves

Thanks to the simplistic nature of storytime animation, animators don’t need to hire a team to help them produce these animations quickly and effectively. 

any animator can do storytime animation, what matters is having a story

Gif by abraham.av via Giphy

They can easily do it all by themselves, which means they don’t have to share any of the profit. It can definitely serve as a nice extra income once you build your audience and upload to YouTube frequently. 

Examples of Storytime Animation

Most storytime animations are autobiographical – they focus on specific aspects of the creator’s life and are then relayed to the audience in a way that is attention-grabbing, relatable, and entertaining. 

Storytime animation can be divided into many themes, but they can be narrowed down to two main categories: Entertainment and tackling important topics and issues. 

1) Entertaining Storytime Animation

Odd1sOut’s videos are a good example of entertaining storytime animation. There’s a reason this channel is so well-known and nearly 18 million subscribers love his content: It’s incredibly fun and relatable. Take his video titled “What Your Early Twenties Will Be Like,” for example. With 14 million views at the time of writing, this video resonated with an incredible amount of people, simply because it’s entertaining and relatable. 

storytime animators like odd1sout creates stories that relate to audiences

Screenshot from TheOdd1sOut via YouTube

People also say that they even love to rewatch some of his videos from time to time. With Odd1sOut’s distinct personality and animations that truly connect with people, it’s easy to see why this channel is an all-time favorite. 

2) Storytime Animations that Tackle Important Topics and Issues

Since storytime animation primarily focuses on reality, it serves as the perfect tool to draw people’s attention to important (and sometimes difficult) topics. illymation is one such storytime animation channel that focuses heavily on topics that evoke plenty of discussions. 

Many of her videos focus on her own experiences with harassment. She also shared a video where she tackles abusive relationships, titled “How I Left My Abusive (ex) Boyfriend.” She drew from her own experience once again to make this video. She does, however, weave some comedy into her stories to lighten the mood when needed. 

many use storytime animations to chronicle moments in their lives

Screenshot from illymation via YouTube

JaidenAnimations does something similar, sharing her experience with eating disorders and anxiety. Her video “Anxiety is the Greatest!” has over 700, 000 views. 

What Makes for Successful Storytime Animation?

While storytime animation is fairly simple to produce, freelance animators still need to understand what aspects of it they need to pay attention to in order for it to be successful. 

1) Storytime Animation Should Build a Relationship With Viewers

One of the driving forces behind storytime animation is the communities it builds and the connections it creates. You should create storytime animation with personality-driven content. 

Maaz, who runs the YouTube channel TheAMaazing, says that animation on YouTube has shifted a lot over the years. While comedy sketches and parodies used to be incredibly popular, people are now drawn toward content that’s more personal. 

storytime animation is a personal genre of animation

Screenshot from illymation via YouTube

The more you showcase your personality through storytime animation, the better you’ll develop your relationship with your viewers. The more relatable your stories, the more people will identify with you, and you’ll draw more viewers and subscribers.

2) Tell Interesting, Attention-Grabbing Stories

Unlike traditional vlogging, storytime animations take longer to produce, so uploading every day isn’t possible. To make up for that, storytime animation should focus on telling very specific, exciting, attention-grabbing, or remarkable stories. 

Something that works really well is to choose a specific theme around which you can create your storytime animations. That makes content creation easier and people will know what to expect from your channel specifically. 

You could tell funny stories about your school or workplace, or focus on recounting embarrassing life events. Adding a dash of humor will also keep people engaged and coming back for more. 

storytime animations allow attention grabbing moments

Screenshot from TheOdd1sOut via YouTube

Additionally, you can use storytime animation to focus on more controversial topics if you’re up for it. These types of videos can keep people engaged until you upload another video and can spark many conversations in the meantime. 

This means you’ll likely get plenty of views and shares as well as comments, all things that the YouTube algorithm values. 

3) Collaborate With Other Storytime Animators

One of the great things about storytime animation on YouTube is the fact that the animators creating these videos often collaborate on projects. 

you can tell and use storytime animations with others

Gif by ChannelFrederator via Giphy

Basically, they promote each other’s work and get creative with their peers. This is a great way for freelance animators to build a network and join animation communities, especially when they’re first starting out. 

4) Storytime Animation Should Encourage Audience Participation

Whether it’s encouraging viewers to share their own experiences in the comments or discuss a question or specific topic, engagement is key when it comes to storytime animation. Just like with vlogging, the audience needs to feel like they have a part to play in your stories. 

One way to do this is to ask them a question they need to answer in the comments at the end of every video or request their opinion about something. 

storytime animation encourages engagement

Image by Fran Solo via Giphy

Some animators even host question and answer sessions, while others feature fan art at the end of their videos. There are plenty of opportunities to invite the audience to engage with you and your content, so you can get creative with how you go about it. 

How Freelance Animators Can Utilize Storytime Animations for Clients and Their Business

Now that you know all about storytime animation and how to make it work, you’re probably curious about how you can utilize it for your animation clients. 

While storytime animation is primarily a format utilized for YouTube, it can definitely be used for specific projects. In fact, pitching this style of animation to clients when the project is perfect for it can actually set you apart from competitors, especially because storytime animation has a style that’s unlike that of traditional animation. 

Here are two instances where you could use the power of storytime animation. 

1) Storytime Animation Can Be Used to Create Advertisements

Storytime animation can definitely be perfect when a client wants you to create an animated advertisement for their business. Utilizing this style can create that personal touch that will help people connect to the advertisement’s message. It can also be a great way to introduce people to the company and establish that personal connection. 

Since storytime animation is so simple, there will be fewer distractions and the audience will be entirely focused on the message you want to deliver to them.

Plenty of storytime animations on YouTube are indirectly utilized as advertisements as well. Domics, for example, partnered with Skillshare at one point, and the company sponsored one of his videos titled “My Video Making Process.”   

some animators use storytime animation to advertise

Screenshot from Domics via YouTube

2) Storytime Animation Can Be Great for Explainer Videos

Many companies make use of explainer videos to introduce potential customers to their brand and products. Storytime animation can be a great way to put a new spin on this popular marketing tactic. 

Since storytime animation’s main focus is on telling real-life stories, this style can be utilized to inform customers about the history of the business, its goals, what it offers them, and why it’s their best choice. 

Using these simple animations will make the message easy to understand and once again won’t distract the audience from receiving it. The CEO of the company can even voice the character in the video, giving it an extra personal touch. 

Some storytime animators on YouTube utilize explainer videos to help out other animators who want to give YouTube a go. 

storytime animation can also be a type of explainer video

Screenshot from Ivey via YouTube

Ivey, a popular storytime animator on YouTube, utilized storytime animation in an explainer video titled “Ivey's guide to Storytime Animation,” which explains everything animators need to know to start a successful storytime animation channel. 

3) Freelance Animators Can Utilize Storytime Animation for an Extra Income

Since storytime animation is relatively easy and doesn’t take up as much time as traditional animation, freelance animators can start their own YouTube channel and utilize these animations for extra income. 

creating storytime animations is an avenue of extra income

Screenshot from Story Time Animated via YouTube

It can serve as a personal animation project on the side that actually contributes to their overall revenue. Not only will it help them to connect with fellow animators on the platform and build a network, but it will also generate content they can use for their animation portfolio

Storytime Animation Is Here to Stay

Storytime animation has been around for a while and will likely only grow in popularity. 

Thanks to the fact that it can easily be adapted for the YouTube algorithm, storytime animation is a surefire way to make a sustainable income from YouTube. 

Another perk of storytime animation’s adaptability is that it can be utilized for projects that aren’t YouTube-related, like advertisements and explainer videos. 

Thanks to its simple and unique style, storytime animation is a great way to make freelance animators stand out among their peers when they’re pitching for projects. 

Storytime animation is simple, effective, and helps people connect to the message you want to deliver. Thanks to the fairly quick turnaround, it can also save animators a lot of time. 

If you’re ready to start your own freelance animation business but don’t know where to begin, check out our Animation Accelerator course.

If you’re looking to get your feet wet, you can watch our free master class and download our free marketing handbook. You can also check out our blog post on how to start your own animation studio.

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