Go!Animate is a web-based application that allows non-artist users to easily create animated videos. It offers an easy to use drag and drop interface that makes it simple and fun to create videos that look professional.

I run an explainer video (or animated promo video) business called Big Idea Video and I was eager to give Go!Animate a try because I wanted to see if it might be a viable alternative for clients that don't have the budget for custom animation explainer videos. That is, I wanted to see if I could use Go!Animate myself to produce explainer videos, without any help from an animator. So, I contacted the people at Go!Animate and they were nice enough to give me free access to their service for the purpose of this experiment.

In order to properly evaluate the software I decided to make an explainer video for a fictitious company. I made up a service called "Scribble" which offers a ridiculous email plug-in that converts email messages to scribbles, and vice versa, to make it quicker for people to read and send emails. The video I made is displayed below.

I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. Where my usual explainer videos start in the $2000 price range, for those clients on a budget, I can use Go!Animate and charge from approximately $400.

Signing Up and Getting Started

I had access to the GoPremium Business plan, which gives users access to all features, with the ability to monetize videos and the license to use videos for one's own business purposes. This plan is available in monthly, quarterly or yearly billing options, which works out to $79, $66, and $50 per month, respectively.  There are also other, less expensive Business (and personal use/educational pricing) plans.

Go!Animate is a web-based service, meaning that it works straight out of your web browser with no need to install any applications. Further, you must be connected to the Internet to use the service.

When starting with Go!Animate you have 2 options: you can either select from a variety of templates that will guide you through the creation of a video, or you can choose the "Make a Video From Scratch" option. Since I wanted complete creative control, I chose the latter. This option takes you to another page where you can choose from a number of styles for your video, several of which are business-related.

Intuitive Controls 

Go!Animate's video maker interface has three general sections: the stage, where one manipulates actors and props; the timeline, which contains the video and audio tracks, as well as your video's scenes; and the asset section, which is the area that contains all your characters, backgrounds, props and other assets, as well as other functions.

Animation of scene elements is intuitive and easy. Unlike other animation tools I have used, Go!Animate is relatively simple. In order to give the application an intuitive feel, the Go!Animate developers decided to dispense with the traditional keyframe approach to animation, which can be difficult to learn and use, and instead they implemented an approach based on individual scenes.

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A scene contains a single action for each character and/or prop on the stage. Each time you require new actions from the elements you have on your stage, or entrance or exit of elements, a new scene must be created. So, for example, if you wanted to move  a character across the stage and back again, you would create one scene to move the character across the stage and a second scene to move it back. A traditional animation application would require that you create keyframes for the character in the timeline at each point that the character's action changes. With Go!Animate, characters and other assets don't show up as separate rows in the timeline. Instead, they are controlled directly on the stage or from the asset section using menus and arrows. All very intuitive and easy to pick up.

Other Features

Another great feature of Go!Animate is the ability to import images, sound files and even videos. I  made extensive use of the import feature when creating my video. I had recorded my voice-over file separately, and had to import that. Further, there were shapes and a simple animation that I had created in Adobe Flash that I imported.

None of this importing, by the way, is necessary. You can create an entire video without any additional assets, and the program offers a number of free music files you can use with your video. Most users, however, will want to take advantage of the fact that you can import your own voice-over file to achieve high quality audio.

Small Quibbles

I really found that there wasn't much to not like about the service. I can only think of two issues I could possibly raise with the service, and neither is a fair criticism for a web-based service, especially one at this price point.

There were times where I wished that I could make my characters perform more specific actions than Go!Animate allowed. For example, I wanted a look of 'surprise' for a character that was not quite as exaggerated as the look Go!Animate offered.

Secondly, there is a bit of a delay when performing certain functions, such as previewing your video, and reloading a previously saved video into the editor.

Honestly, though, much of the time I found myself in awe of the incredibly smooth and intuitive engine that the Go!Animate developers had created. And it was always a fun 'toy' to use.

In Closing

If you need to create animated videos and you don't require custom animation, or if you are on a budget, I would suggest you sign up for the Basic Free account and give it a try. It really is a well-designed, cleverly thought-out, and highly useful product.

  • Chris

    I am a Premium member and have been extremely unsatisfied with their petty copy write policies (in addition to a $79 transfer fee PER VIDEO!) they also restrict how you can publish your content ... How annoying would it be to create a video, only to find out that you have to pay the $79 transfer fee PLUS ask your client to enter into negotiations with GOAnimate to discuss revenue potential of the project before the client can publish the content on TV!!! Unreal. They need to change this... They already charge a lot for the service, I dont know why they try to "get you" at every corner with their complicated copy right policies.

    Just let people own the content they make on the software!!

    From the GOanimate faq page"

    Q: Can I get a license to cover broadcast media?

    A: We ask for station(s) and market(s) covered in order to get
    started. It’s really just a conversation starter to begin assessing the
    revenue potential of the project.

  • Ed Lewis

    Failure to mention GoAnimate's $79 "Rights Transfer" you must purchase if you are creating the video for a client leaves this article somewhat incomplete. Just saying...

    It's not a huge deal, but it's still $79 that will either eat into profit or have to be added on to the project.

    This is pretty much a must unless a client is willing to pay for the video to be made but not get rights to the video...unlikely.

    At least GoAnimate got rid of the crazy rule they used to have where you lost your rights to the videos you created if you didn't keep paying your GoAnimate subscription FORVER.

    It would be like Adobe claiming graphic designers didn't have the rights to work they made in PhotoShop if they stopped paying for the CreativeCloud.

    • Jordan Warman

      Right. Thanks for that.

      One possible alternative is to have the client sign up and then do the work in their account, as a temporary/contractual worker. They would still have to pay for membership, but sometimes clients will have a membership anyway. Of course, I don't know about the legalities of doing it this way, but I can't really see why it wouldn't be OK.

  • Carl Hartman

    Well, it also depends on what you think about explainer videos. Generally, the world is numb to them. We work for a number of agencies and they have stopped. So many people have done the same old flying text and little characters that its all a blur. When I get to a web page and see one, I'll watch and shut it off about 15 seconds into the presentation. Its a video droning on and on and on. It was a cute idea once. Its no longer novel or interesting. I cringe when my clients say they want an animated explainer video. They saw it somewhere else and they have to have one (which is one of the worst reasons to do something).

    I have had several of my animators try out a number of these packages. My business partner had a light bulb go off in his head and think, wow! He thought we could undercut the competition (again, a stupid business practice). We are back to After Effects and assembling the pieces the same way we have for awhile. I even had two artists in our office compete doing the same presentation and the old way and one of these packages and it was still faster using AE.

    Here's the reality. My costs have little to do with production. The value in what we do is in creating powerful marketing messages. So, someone comes up with software and "bingo!" anyone can make a video. But, the reality is that the value we put into our work is the message, not the video production. Our clients pay us for results. A good client could care less about the production work costs. If people are squabbling over $1000 in cost, they are clueless about what they are purchasing and the value of the work.