Danny Casale’s animated characters may be colorful and blobby, but their simplicity belies their message. A universe far from superficial memes or punchlines, the art of Casale, under his nickname Coolman Coffeedan, seeks to uplift mental well-being, especially among young people facing daily anxieties.
After scribbling his way to school, Casale first went viral with his animation Snakes have legs, non-partisan treatment of fake news. He was heading for clever jokes, quickly gaining traction on social media.
Then he woke up with the rest of the world one morning in October 2017 to learn that a gunman opened fire on the crowd gathered at a music festival in Las Vegas.
âI was a 21-year-old college student living in Brooklyn, and I just felt that innate weight in my heart, that sadness that I knew everyone was feeling,â said Casale, who was appointed to Forbes’ List of the 30 under 30s in 2020. “I looked at my watch and knew I had to go to class later, but I really felt like I wanted to say something to make people feel better about this news. platform that I had. “
He began recording and animating a video featuring one of his iconic characters, Blue Dude, conveying a message Casale learned from his father at a young age: Although there are bad people out there, the Most of the people are good, and there is a lot of good in the world.
The leaked video is full of simple reminders of good things: the smell of bakeries, the taste of watermelon in summer, that feeling when your crush says your name.
âAnd I was like, I can’t go to class. It needs to be completed and it needs to be released today. It was that Spiderman moment, where I felt like I had something to do, âhe recalls.
Seconds after posting he knew he had struck a chord. âPeople were starving for this recall at that time, but also in general,â he says. As the DMs and the chat continued to pour in, Casale realized that animation could be interpreted in an endless number of ways, for an endless number of storylines.
âIt was the first time I saw, there is something bigger to do here. Focusing on mental health isn’t just about jokes; now it is also about talking about things that are difficult to talk about. That’s when he took it to the next level.
With topics ranging from loneliness, fear and inertia to reminders to drink more water, hug someone and exercise, Coolman Coffeedan’s animations resonate beyond. demographic and geographic boundaries. Many have their roots in storylines that are both personal and universal to him. After recently losing his grandmother, Casale created an animation about the disappearance of a loved one.
âI’m glad these characters aren’t just conveying content as you scroll through your timeline. People come back to it [first] video to spend time with Blue Dude whenever they need this booster. That’s kind of what this Coolman universe has become: a bunch of characters that people really love and relate to, âhe says.
“They form that friendship with them, because unfortunately a lot of people don’t have that person in their life that they can talk to about these simple things, that we all need to talk about – depression and anxiety, and how to deal with those things. . For so many people in the world, regardless of their language or culture, these characters are that person for them. Once I realize that I was like, OK, there’s a lot to do here. and let’s see where it goes.
It’s gone far. With 6.8 million subscribers on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, Casale is also gaining a foothold in Hollywood celebrity circles, including actor Mark Ruffalo and DJ and songwriter Diplo, who provided the vocals for one of his. animations. He also teamed up with Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone for a personal care animation that has garnered 10 million views and is counting.
This month he released his first animated book, both a way to comfort himself during the months of pandemic isolation and a way for others to learn about mental health topics.
âText is the best way to spend more time developing and disentangling these more complex topics,â he says.
Ur special: Tips for humans! (TarcherPerigree) introduces new companions – a robot who has lost his arms, a turtle who hates himself – as well as familiar Coolman characters like Blue Dude and Spesh, a white catâ¦ or maybe he’s a bunny? Nobody really knows, and it doesn’t really matter, Casale says. The important thing is to keep moving the conversation forward.
âWhen I started four years ago, I felt, as a young man in his twenties, that we didn’t talk enough about this stuff, that there wasn’t enough of this internet dialogue without it being too old-fashioned or not relatable, âhe says. youth.”
Now Casale thinks the conversations are starting to cool down for âthe average personâ¦ the sophomore high school student who just got heartbroken or just lost his dog. There are more resources for that person, where I feel there weren’t even five years ago, âhe says. âYou were kind of left to sulk or figure it out for yourself. I am happy to be part of the movement.
- Hollywood & Mind lives at the intersection of entertainment and wellness, and features musicians, actors, sports figures and other cultural influencers who improve mental health.