Three Miami brothers created an animation app that kids can use on phones and tablets

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MIAMI – Remember those long days in algebra class when sketching on the corner pages of textbooks and flipping through drawings was the best escape from boredom? There is an application for that.

FlipaClip is a free flipbook-style animation app for phones and tablets. It aims to make drawing and animation accessible 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 around the world turned 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. Argentinian-born siblings Marcos Meson, 43, Jonathan Meson, 38, and Tim Meson, 31, launched FlipaClip in 2012, finally fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Brothers Jonathan Meson, left, and Marcos Meson, co-founders of Visual Blasters, talk about their FlipaClip app in their Miami offices.(Sydney Walsh/TNS)

“We always said how cool it would be to work together, ever since we were young,” second brother Jonathan said. “We wanted to spend time together, get creative and do something together.”

Jonathan, the company’s general manager, and his younger brother Tim, chief engineer, are the coders who take care of the more technical aspects of the job. Meanwhile, older brother Marcos, VP of Marketing, is working on creative elements such as visual design.

“Our brains are totally different left-brained and right-brained, 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 small, isolated, desert town of Salta, Tartagal, near the Bolivian border.

In 2009, the brothers started making money from a radio streaming app they created for fun called XiiaLive. The following year they launched Visual Blasters.

“I said to Marcos, ‘Hey, I can’t put this money in my bank account.’ That’s when we said, well, let’s build an LLC,” Jonathan said.

As for the inspiration for the Visual Blasters name, the idea was simple. “We wanted to deal with things that were visually stunning,” 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 nearly 60 million downloads and was featured in Apple’s iPad launch ad. FlipaClip collaborated with Miami-based group Tell Her I Love Her to inspire users to create a music video.

The company plans to do another big project soon with FlipaClip. For competitive reasons, the brothers declined to reveal details in a recent interview.

Earlier this year, they added a glow feature to the app that lets users draw fluorescent light over video clips. The glow feature is something the creators demanded. The update landed a feature in Apple’s iPad ad.

“For us, it’s like a testament,” Jonathan said. “A trillion dollar company using our product for this confirms that the hard work we do helps people.”

But the brothers aren’t going to stop at Apple ads. “We want to become the known animation platform in the universe,” he said. “And when we become that, I think that’s when we know we’ve peaked.”

FlipaClip’s monthly active users have doubled during the ongoing pandemic, thanks in part to its strong community engagement, contests, and help from educators in schools around the world throughout difficult times.

In 2020, when COVID-19 hit, the brothers took the time to continue inspiring their creators by challenging them with a contest.

“We were worried about the children. How do they feel? What can we give to add to the well-being of the youngest? Marcos said.

About 300,000 creators have registered for the competition titled “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 courses remotely through a program with public libraries around the world using FlipaClip. He has taught over 1,500 children between the ages of 8 and 17. He was inspired at age 6 to pursue animation after watching his cousin draw animations on a flipbook.

“I became obsessed with animation. All my schoolbooks had animations in the corners,” Medrano said. “If learning to animate as a kid changed my life and created a whole journey of career for me, and if I gave it to the children? The kids would like that. They just don’t know that they can do it or that the tools exist, or that someone can teach them how to do it.

After researching animation apps to teach students remotely, he settled on FlipaClip because it was free, accessible, and user-friendly.

“I wanted to focus on animation. And it had to be easy-to-use software for kids and the more I used it, the more I fell in love with the app,” he said. “I started integrating FlipaClip on my own personal projects for my clients.”

Medrano now teaches children in English and Spanish all over the United States and Latin America, including students from Mexico, Panama, Argentina and many more. Parents can register their children through their local libraries to attend its virtual classes for free.

“The goal is to reach every child in the world,” he said. “For children, watching cartoons is one thing. But for them, learning to make them is a whole other expanding universe.

One Palm Springs teenager whose life changed after being exposed to FlipaClip is 16-year-old Caroline Engono. She discovered FlipaClip when she was 11, while browsing YouTube videos on art tutorials.

“I was already into art and thought about drawing cartoons in the future,” she said. “When I downloaded the app, I realized it was for animation and it was really easy to use.”

Engono decided to create his own YouTube channel, Cocoas Art, dedicated to sharing his animations shortly after downloading FlipaClip. She has amassed over 120,000 subscribers and over 16 million views through over 300 videos. Her experience gave her the confidence to become a facilitator.

Visual Blasters has recently started expanding its membership and is excited about upcoming projects.

“Finally, we have the manpower and the engineers that can help us improve the app. And add what the community has asked for and we’re thrilled,” said CEO Jonathan.

FlipaClip's office in Miami is decorated with animations and drawings.
FlipaClip’s office in Miami is decorated with animations and drawings.(Sydney Walsh/TNS)


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