- Danny Casale released his NFT collection after spending years building up his characters.
- He believes that the artwork doesn’t have to be perfect but the message needs to resonate.
- Those who bought his NFTs were also able to see that he’s a serious artist, which built confidence.
While there are many success stories of nonfungible-token sales circling the internet, the process isn’t as simple as just creating a collection.
Danny Casale’s artistic journey began well before NFTs were even a thing. But he’s among the creators who have cashed in on the digital-collectibles boom that generated a record $25 billion in sales last year, according to DappRadar.
On December 18, 2021, the animator released a 10,000 piece NFT collection. His team, huddled in front of a laptop, refreshing the page until it said “sold out.” One team member was heard saying “in three minutes,” and then they cheered, according to a video viewed by Insider.
All together the NFTs brought in 924.8 ether, which was equivalent to about $3.6 million based on ETH’s trading value of $3,943 on the day of sale according to Coinmarketcap. Transaction records from the project’s ether wallet that were viewed by Insider showed the proceeds. On Friday, the collection was valued at $2.9 million excluding secondary sales, based on ETH’s lower trading price of about $3,105.
According to Casale, he started very small. “I was a young dude in New York City trying to figure it out, trying to pay his bills by any means he could under the scope of creating,” he said.
He said he lived in Brooklyn, attending Pace University between 2016 and 2017. He scoured Craigslist looking for jobs and sent hundreds of emails asking for opportunities to shoot a music video, sometimes even offering to do it for free in exchange for the experience.
Casale created his YouTube channel in 2008, said he planned to be a videographer. He had zero intention of being an artist or an animator. But then his artistic journey really took off in 2017 after he released an animated video that went viral.
“Total fluke,” Casale said. “I had this random three-in-the-morning idea and I never animated before. I just applied my video-editing skills to my drawing skills, busted out this animation that took me an hour to make in the middle of the night. And that video, ‘snakes have legs,’ is sitting at over a hundred million views.”
The video was viewed on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and 9GAG. It consisted of two oddly drawn yellow characters who were concluding that snakes had legs because one of them had seen it reported by a fictitious news site. But a snake came along and refuted the idea, telling one character to “stop being dumb on the internet.”
Casale said the idea came from the political tension and polarization he observed during the Trump administration. He viewed the internet as a place that connected people around the world. But instead, people were using it to argue, creating a toxic environment.
For him, the message behind that first video will likely be relevant for the rest of his life, especially because it doesn’t take any particular sides — it’s a political cartoon that’s relatable to anyone in the world.
The foundation of success behind his selling out
A key takeaway from creating the video was that visuals don’t have to be perfect, but the message behind it does. His characters have different personalities that discuss human emotions and that’s the biggest reason for his success: the messaging, he said
That’s one of the three most important elements Casale believes contributed to his NFTs’ success. The others were: being a serious artist with a history behind his work, and building a community around him.
The blobby, simple-looking characters he draws can be viewed as cute or dumb, Casale said. But they’re tackling the most complex human issues like anxiety,
self-loathing, lack of motivation, and even grievance.
The goal is to remind people that they’re special, things are going to be okay, or even that they’re not as ugly as they think, he said. He added that this transcends age, culture, and even language.
“That was the foundation before NFTs were even a twinkle in my eye,” Casale said.
To be sure, some experts are warning that digital art valuations are unsustainable and part of a bubble that has captured creators and speculative flippers alike. Still, Casale doesn’t think NFTs are in a bubble. He said it’s just the beginning, and the sector is going to get bigger because NFTs lower the barrier for entry for other artists to get their work out there.
A ‘fully doxxed’ artist
It wasn’t until December 2021, that he decided to morph his art, which had already been circulating on social media, into NFTs.
But he told Insider he didn’t “shill” his collection to his usual audience, a term popularly used in crypto circles that refers to promoting a project. This was because he had fans that could have been as young as 12 that followed him on Instagram and Facebook, and he didn’t want to influence them into buying anything.
However, he believes that having a mass following and long history of being an artist was a validator to NFT enthusiasts and investors who may not have been previously familiar with his work.
“They scroll back, they see these cartoon characters back in 2017. They know this isn’t just some one-off pump and dump, that I’m fully doxxed as an artist. They see that I’m in this for life. So they use those things as the validators that, ‘okay, this is legit’,” Casale said.
He did, however, start a
page that has 21,000 members and used his Twitter and Twitter Spaces to introduce the project. Both Discord and Twitter are key to reaching an NFT audience.
Casale said he didn’t need to work out the kinks of learning how to create NFTs from scratch because he had a group of technically savvy friends. They joined forces so that Casale could just focus on the artwork.
He told Insider that he drew every element by hand and then Coolman’s Universe engineers, his team, created the 10,000 generative pieces of one main character, known as Spesh. Spesh is the main character of the Coolman’s Universe.
The hardest part about releasing such a large collection was combing through each one to make sure there were no glitches, he said.
He first released a small collection of 10 NFTs, short individual videos created on Final Cut Pro. The main event was the second collection which was generative art that consisted of 10,000 NFTs, with a mint price of 0.095 ETH.
The large collection was released in two increments. The first was the pre-mint, which lasted for 24 hours and allowed Discord members and a few others who won a spot to access the collection in advance. The open mint that sold out within three minutes then took place.