I first heard about Emofuri (aka Emote Movie Maker) back in 2014. It was this new program out of Japan that allowed you to easily “animate” your characters, and had quickly become a fad online.
Being only in Japanese, there was a language barrier that needed to be overcome, as well as some hoops you needed to jump though in order for the program to even run on a western computer. But the satisfaction of seeing your own character animated for the first time made all the work worth it.
As with most internet fads though, it died down after a few months. A lot of people didn’t get past using the default prepackaged animations that came with the program, and limited export options didn’t allow for more than a few seconds worth of low frame rate sequences.
Skip ahead a couple of years to 2016 and I was finalizing work on “Nekobook: Visual Materials” and getting ready to launch it’s Kickstarter. I knew I wanted a video to showcase the contents, and I decided to go with a visual novel style presentation. I revisited Emofuri (which by now had released an update that expanded features and reduced limitations), and created the main cast of the “Caribbean Blue” webcomic to use in the video.
I was happy with the result, and the Kickstarter was successful! I got a lot of positive feedback from the video.
In the following year, I experimented with a very similar program called Live2d, as it had a plugin that could be used for motion tracking. I had hoped this would allow me to puppeteer an avatar during my streams on Picarto channel. Although it “worked”, it proved to be a lot more effort than I previously experienced with emofuri, both for setup and animation, and the motion tracking was too wonky.
I also explored two other programs “Spine” and “Dragonbones“, both which offered their own benefits, but had limited to no use for any current projects I was working on. They are all great tools, but like tools, each one has a use it was designed for, and they just didn’t match my needs.
In early 2018, not wanting to discard the work I had done for the Live2d avatar, I set about recycling the art assets for use in Emofuri. A new version had come out, and in my quest to understand all the menus I did what no man has ever done before; I read the manual (GASP!). Of course, I had to use google translate, but suddenly I began to understand a lot more of the potential of this program and set about learning and experimenting with all I could. The new avatar was applied to my stream, cycling though 10 animation loops I had created.
I was set to attend two conventions that year (Tosho-con and Anthrocon), and came to find that both would have free access to electrical power for vendors. I decided that the most unique use for this would be to make a another video featuring animated characters. During Anthrocon I used the livestream avatar, and for Tosho-con I created a new puppet using their mascot. Both featured voice acting, and were also very popular at their conventions.
As the Kemono Cafe project began development I knew right away that I wanted to animate the cast. This could be used in a lot of applications, from the site itself, to reviews, promotional videos, and possibly even games.
I started with Sandy (of course), and using the advanced template I created the most complex puppet I had made to date. The result was wonderful, but she had far too many animation controls and creating sequences with her would be a daunting task.
So, as I moved on to the other characters, I decided to stick to the simple template instead, and seeing how I could squeeze as much into it as possible. Kona and Miko both followed, and were great learning experiences.
I’ve since worked on a few other puppets, inducing Bowsette, Mora Linda (from the Las Lindas Comic) and most recently, Shu (from a comic I’m still currently working on). Time permitting, I hope to finish the rest of the Kemono Cafe cast, and begin putting them to use throughout the site!
If you would like to help us out with new avatars, please consider supporting us via Patreon! Your donation keeps the site running and allows me to focus on creating fun things like more animations!