Coolman’s Universe is a super cute NFT collection that features the illustrations of Danny Casale – a YouTuber and illustrator turned NFT project owner. What makes Coolman’s Universe a strong NFT project is its sense of community; united by the positivity that emanates from Casale’s main character Spesh.
Danny Casale found time in his busy schedule to talk to NFTevening with friends and team members David Roa and Ryan Dunlop. In this interview, they talk to us all about the unique origin story of Coolman’s Universe. We also talk about how it’s spreading some much-needed positivity in these difficult times, with a little help from web3 tools.
Quotes are condensed and edited for clarity.
Web2 beginnings and big web3 dreams
Danny Casale, also known as Coolman Coffeedan, started his media career at the tender age of 12. He discovered YouTube and started creating and uploading content. In 2017, his cartoon titled “Snakes Have Legs” accumulated tens of millions of views. This quickly led to a dedicated fan base, which now amasses 2.69 million subscribers on YouTube alone.
“People really started resonating with these animations, because it not only would it make them laugh or smile, but it would make them feel comforted,” Danny explains. Three years later, everyone was hunkered down in their homes during the COVID-19 lockdowns. As a result, Danny’s characters became more popular than ever. According to him, the reason behind this is that everyone was “sourcing for positivity around that time.”
It was around that time that the hype around NFTs started to grow. After a few months of looking at where the trend was going, Danny decided to try NFTs – without much thought.
“In March 2021, I uploaded my first few NFTs to OpenSea and just listed them, you know, they were animated loops. And to my surprise, they sold for, like one ETH,” Danny recalls. “It wasn’t until summertime when I caught wind of those sorts of generative projects. And that’s when I was like, Oh, that’s really cool. That’s a neat concept.”
It was David, Danny’s New York buddy, however, who encouraged him to go all out. According to Danny, he was “calling me every day being like, you really have to get into this, you have to look into this.”
Thanks to David’s insistence, Danny agreed to turn his existing, much-beloved characters into NFTs. Moreover, David pretty much pieced together the team of coders and developers. They got to work, and by December, the Coolman’s Universe NFTs were ready to mint. It sold out in three minutes.
A very unexpected collaboration
Collaborating with legendary record producer Timbaland was one of the many cool opportunities that emerged from Coolman’s Universe popularity. The Timbaland and TIMEPieces collection consists of artistic video NFTs incorporating a unique beat by the music legend. Although Danny did not know from the outset who the secret collaborator would be, he got down to work.
“What resulted was a really cool, honest sort of song about the beauties of web3; and how authentic and genuine this renaissance is,” he says. “How you should be focusing on the right areas of web3; how maybe it’s not all about, you know, the money or the clout.” Soon after the collaboration was made public, Timbaland himself followed Danny, which, according to Danny, was pretty “cool.”
All about Coolman’s Babies
The work didn’t stop there. In the meantime, the Coolman’s Universe team was intensely working on the Babies Drop. However, Danny’s close collaborator Ryan reveals this was not a new idea. Rather, it had been there from the very beginning.
“If you look at the current collection, you know, almost half of the current collection is holding one of these little baby characters,” says Ryan. “With any great storytelling, expanding on characters and growing, the narrative is going to be part of that.”
Through the Babies, the team hopes to continue expanding Coolman’s Universe by introducing new, standalone characters. Ryan also reveals that they’re designed to have “meaning and intent in the ecosystem.” Furthermore, the main character, Spesh, needs the babies to be successful on his journey. “Similarly, our community will need them in a very, kind of mutually beneficial way. So we’re excited to bring them to life and the project,” he adds.
As we’ve seen on Twitter, the Coolman’s Universe team has been teasing the Babies over the past couple of weeks. According to Danny, each Baby that Spesh is seen holding – ranging from dinosaurs to aliens to burritos – will become a main character. Additionally, the Babies will expand the Coolman’s Universe lore and explore Spesh’s journey throughout the Universe.
In addition to complementing the existing Coolman’s Universe NFT holders, the Babies will also be a good entry point for those new to the collection. This is because, in addition to the pre-existing Babies, there will also be a bunch of cute Babies up for grabs. Set to be released this month, the Babies will continue to expand on an already very exciting project.
From web3 to the “Ur Special” book
Coolman’s Universe’s impact extends beyond web3. In fact, Coolman’s Universe Spesh has already been the subject of a physical book, inspired by the isolation brought about by the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“When I started writing, you know, just stories to help pass the time and sort of comfort me. At the end of the day, these characters are often there for even me, the creator, and helped me get through tough times,” recollects Danny.
“Before I knew it, the short stories very quickly, proved to be not only really comforting to me, but also started to feel like a book. I said, Hey, this would, you know, pair really well with illustrations. And so I just kept writing these stories and drawing. Before I knew that I had a pretty solid book.”
The book was published just a month before the Coolman’s Universe NFT collection dropped. Danny admits that it was “a really wild dynamic because you have the super old-fashioned medium of the book going in bookstores, and then just 30 days later, the cutting edge new technology doing the same thing.” What connected the two, however, was the community that supported Danny, Spesh and Coolman’s Universe.
Taking Coolman’s Universe around the world
The love for the character and community that was built around the Universe led Danny to set up art installations around the world. His first installation was humble: Danny and David were simply serving coffee brew and giving out cardboard characters at zero budget. The pop-up proved to be a success. It even attracted a few celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo (known for playing the Hulk in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe)!
Post-COVID-19, Danny’s calendar is already booked with Coolman’s Universe-related installations. This year, he has already visited India and will be going to Shanghai later this year. However, what the team was most looking forward to when we called is their IRL event at NFT.NYC.
“I can’t wait for that, because that’s just going to be the biggest example, I think yet to date of exactly that. Creating memories, and bringing people together in real life – under the scope of my art and under the scope of Spesh,” says Danny.
Creating immersive experiences for the Coolman’s Universe community
However, when you’re so successful in web2 and web3, do you really need IRL installations? According to Danny, the answer is a hard “yes.” “I think the true magic comes from when you’re able to experience them in real life, whether it’s on physical canvas, or, in a space where you’re able to walk around and step around, and really experience this and experience it with your friends and create memories that way,” says Danny.
According to Danny, it is also a good way to introduce people to web3. “My whole goal here is to convert and bridge the gap between web2 and web three. How do I become a part of that? Oh, by owning an NFT, what’s an NFT? Oh, it’s this cute photo of Spesh. How do I go about getting that? And I think starting the conversation that way, is much better than, some more abrasive ways.”
He continues, “What I hope to do is exactly that: just help people understand that this is not scary, it’s not evil, it’s actually quite cool and quite fun. It can make super positive changes to real life, to the world, and to our fellow humans. And I think that narrative has always fallen under my animations. What I hope to convey with them, and NFTs and web3 sort of just elevates that.”