By: Amy Rosner By: Amy Rosner | December 23, 2021 | culture
Viral digital artist and Forbes 30 Under 30 list-maker Danny Casale (aka Coolman Coffeedan) first sent the internet ablaze when his cartoon titled “Snakes Have Legs” accumulated tens of millions of views nearly overnight.
Casale has since turned his humorous and crudely-drawn cartoons into a profession, with an internet following well into the millions.
The industry trailblazer recently released 10,000 one-of-a-kind NFT’s of his most famous character, Speshy, which is now available to the public.
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In addition to his new NFT venture, Danny just released his first book, UR SPECIAL: Advice for Humans from Coolman Coffeedan (TarcherPerigee), which was recently featured on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
We sat down with the internet sensation to discuss the steps it takes to become an industry pioneer.
As a Forbes 30 under 30 list maker, what differentiates you from other creators in the space?
Being recognized as Forbes 30 under 30 was a huge milestone that I always would’ve hoped happened someday, but was never quite sure how it would come about. I ended up being recognized for the creativity I put out into the world but the time I was 24 years old, and think that’s what catches people’s attention. I’m 26 now, and I still have so much I want to do. The projects I have planned this upcoming year is insane. If I don’t create, I feel miserable. There’s so much time left and so much more I want to do, and that’s the magic I hope people see.
Your cartoon “Snakes Have Legs” accumulated tens of millions of views nearly overnight. What would you attribute this virality to?
I think it’s because of the simple cartoon aesthetic mixed with the deeper commentary. It’s colorful, kindergarten-esque blobs talking about something as complex and frustrating as fake news. You can laugh at it, relate with it, use it to write your college thesis, tweet about it from your official politician account (which totally happened on multiple occasions), and everything in between. It got a conversation started, and shed light on something that was on everyone’s minds in a light-hearted way, which is a beautiful thing.
What steps were taken to transform your passion into a sustainable profession?
I always ebbed and flowed between having a plan and having no plan at all. You can be all buttoned up with the perfect step-by-step formula and get nowhere. Same goes for being completely aimless and unprepared. I think a lot of my journey so far has been thanks to equal parts luck, experience, and preparedness. It’s been a fun ride to figure things out along the way. I kept an open mind, stayed curious, doubled down on what worked, did less of what didn’t, and trusted the process. As long as you’re having fun, that must mean you’re on the right track… right?
What is the purpose of your work? In other words, what is your "why?"
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that someone’s day could be brightened by the simplest things. A nice passerby on the sidewalk, a funny thing a dog did, or getting texted a funny meme by a friend.
Something I recognized very early in my animation journey is that these simple characters, for so many people around the world, were that direct source of positivity and inspiration. I got coffee at Starbucks a little while ago, and the barista was telling me how much she loved my work. After chatting for a while, I learned that she initially found my videos at the start of quarantine. She told me how she and her younger sister would send each other my content to ease their anxieties. That’s the purpose of it all… to do stuff like that as much as possible.
Your non-traditional education path is inspiring. What advice would you give young individuals who feel confined to a pre-determined trajectory?
Make the time to explore your real interests. Get a few hours less of sleep if you need to. There’s always time to use experimenting, trying new things, and seeing what sticks. For me, that was coming home from middle/high school every day, immediately writing some video ideas down, turning on the camera, and filming it. These videos would go on YouTube and garner the beginnings of an audience. I’m grateful that I spent virtually all my free time as a teenager doing that.
Have a conversation with the people in your life that feel you should be doing things a certain type of way. It most likely will be a series of conversations. Once I got into college, I was desperately trying to enjoy it. But it felt like more and more of a waste of time. My parents saw how driven I was outside of the classroom, hustling to make music videos for anybody in NYC who would pay me (and sometimes for free), to the point that they were open to me taking a year hiatus from school. The funny thing is, things took off to such a degree that I never went back.
What responsibility do you have as a Forbes 30 under 30 winner?
The thought of inspiring other young creatives who took an unorthodox path is really exciting to me. We live in incredible times. You can go viral overnight and have a whole new career in front of you. The tools are all there. Experimenting and trying new things is key. You never know what might just work, and I love the idea of spreading that message.
How do you plan to maintain your status as one of the top business and industry figures at the moment?
I’m always searching for new inspiration to keep my content fresh and my endeavors exciting. If I’m not having fun, I don’t expect anyone to have fun watching my animations. I announced some incredible new projects this year, like my book ‘Ur Special - Advice for Humans” and my NFT digital art collection “Coolman’s Universe”. Both of which took a lot of planning to make sure it was done right and teed up for longevity. Authenticity for my audience is always first in my mind. I want to make sure I’m putting out dope stuff that people resonate with, always.
Tell us about your new book, UR SPECIAL: Advice for Humans from Coolman Coffeedan.
It’s my first book and I wrote it over quarantine! “UR SPECIAL - Advice for Humans” is a colorful, feel-good adventure where my characters take the reader along a magical journey and learn a few life lessons along the way.
In every chapter, a new character is met and a new story is told. You can expect to meet a self-conscious turtle, a high-anxiety robot, some aliens that are lost from home, and everything in between. There are lessons about self-confidence, dealing with loss, and even the right way to make a bowl of cereal. It’s a bunch of useful reminders, for all ages, for when life gets you down.
What piece of advice would you give a young entrepreneur who aspires to be on the Forbes 30 under 30 list?
Trust your gut, but also learn to give things a shot. On several occasions, I had to recognize that I was getting in my own way instead of trusting the creative project. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. But when it does, it propels you to levels you never would’ve thought possible.
Oh, and always remember…you are special!
You’ve already accomplished so much at such a young age. What’s next?
Just this past week, my NFT digital art collection titled “Coolman’s Universe” dropped. It’s a project that follows my main character named Spesh, as he searches the universe for his best friend. Just 2 minutes into launch, the collection of 10,000 unique images sold out. Now, there are 5,000 owners who have their own unique Speshies. This adds a whole new dimension to my community and is an extension of my art and mission to bring positivity/good vibes.
I look forward to experimenting with more avenues for my art and characters in 2022. Digital content, fine art, live events… the sky is the limit. It’s all really a dream come true.
Photography by: Courtesy Danny Casale