Remember the long days in Algebra class when drawing on corner pages of textbooks and flipping through the drawings was the best escape from boredom? There’s an app for that.
FlipaClip is a free flipbook-style animation app for phones and tablets. It aims to make drawing and animation approachable to the next generation by meeting them on the devices they already use. The app is known for its user-friendly software and strong community of users, which they call “creators.”
These creators across the world have transformed their imagination into reality and shared it via TikTok, YouTube, other social media platforms, professional advertisements and music videos.
The app was created by three brothers who run the Miami company Visual Blasters. The Argentinian-born siblings, Marcos Meson, 43, Jonathan Meson, 38, and Tim Meson, 31, launched FlipaClip in 2012, finally completing a lifelong dream.
“We always talked about how cool it would be to work together, since we were young,” middle brother Jonathan said. “We wanted to hang out and just get creative and do something together.”
Jonathan, the company’s chief executive officer, and youngest brother Tim, lead engineer, are coders handling the more technical aspects of the work. Meanwhile, the oldest brother, Marcos, vice president of marketing, works on creative elements such as visual design.
“Our brains are totally different as far as left brain and right brain, but still very creative in both areas,” Marcos said.
The Meson brothers grew up making movies with VHS cameras and making stop-motion animation with Legos in the remote, small desert city of Salta, Tartagal, close to the Bolivia border.
In 2009, the brothers started making money from a radio streaming app they created for fun called XiiaLive. The next year, they launched Visual Blasters.
“I told Marcos, ‘Hey, I can’t put this money in my bank account.’ So that’s when we said, well, let’s build an LLC,” Jonathan said.
As far as the inspiration for the name of Visual Blasters, the idea was straightforward. “We wanted to deal with stuff that was visually blasting,” the CEO said.
FlipaClip now has 6 million monthly active users and was recognized by Apple in 2019 for its App Trend of the Year distinction. The app has close to 60 million downloads and was featured in Apple’s iPad launch commercial, and collaborated with Miami-based band “Tell Her I Love Her” to inspire users to create a music video.
The company has plans to soon do another big project with FlipaClip. For competitive reasons, the brothers declined to reveal details of it in a recent interview.
Earlier this year, they added a glow feature to the app that allows users to draw fluorescent light over video clips. The glow feature is something creators have been demanding. The update landed a feature in Apple’s iPad commercial.
“For us, this is like a testament,” Jonathan said. “A trillion-dollar company using our product for this is validating that the hard work that we’re doing is helping people.”
However, the brothers aren’t going to stop at Apple commercials. “We want to become the animation platform known in the universe,” he said. “And when we become that, I think that’s when we know we reached our pinnacle.”
FlipaClip’s monthly active users doubled during the ongoing pandemic, in part thanks to its strong community engagement, competitions, and help from educators in schools around the world throughout the difficult times.
In 2020 when COVID-19 hit, the brothers took the time as a chance to keep inspiring their creators by challenging them with a contest.
“We were worried about the kids. How are they feeling? What can we give to add to the well-being of the younger ones?” Marcos said.
About 300,000 creators signed up for the competition called “Beat COVID-19.” Participants created an animated educational video about the virus following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Luis Medrano, 49, is an Emmy award-winning broadcast design animator and teaches free animation classes remotely through a program with public libraries worldwide using FlipaClip. He has taught over 1,500 children between 8 to 17 years old. He was inspired at 6 to pursue animation, after watching his cousin draw animations on a flipbook.
“I became obsessed with animation. All my school books had animations in the corners,” Medrano said. “If learning how to do animation as a kid changed my life and created a whole career path for me, what if I give that to kids? Kids would love this. They just don’t know that they can do it or that tools exist, or that somebody can teach them how to do it.”
After scouting for animation apps to teach students remotely, he settled on using FlipaClip because it was free, accessible and user-friendly.
“I wanted to focus on the animation. And it had to be a software that was easy to use for kids and the more I used it, the more I fell in love with the app,” he said. “I started to integrate FlipaClip on my own personal projects for my clients.”
Medrano now teaches kids in English and Spanish all over the United States and Latin America, including students from Mexico, Panama, Argentina and many more. Parents can sign up their kids through their local libraries to attend his virtual classes for free.
“The goal is to reach every kid in the world,” he said. “For kids, to watch cartoons is one thing. But for them to learn how to make them, it’s a whole other universe expanding.”
One teenager from Palm Springs, whose life changed after being exposed to FlipaClip, is 16-year-old Caroline Engono. She learned about FlipaClip at 11, while browsing YouTube videos about art tutorials.
“I was already into art, and I thought about drawing cartoons in the future,” she said. “When I downloaded the app, I realized it was for animation and was really easy to use.”
Engono decided to make her own YouTube channel, Cocoas Art, dedicated to sharing her animations shortly after downloading FlipaClip. She has amassed over 120,000 subscribers and over 16 million views through more than 300 videos. Her experience has given her the confidence to want to be an animator.
Visual Blasters recently started expanding its workforce and is excited about upcoming projects.
“Finally we have the manpower and the engineers that can help us make the app better. And add what the community has been requesting and we’re excited about that,” CEO Jonathan said.