Brandon Reed: Making cartoon connections
It was basically a free education. I pretty much just enrolled in what I would call YouTube University.”
Brandon Reed was always drawn to animation. But with no professional animators to look to in South Bend, Indiana — most people in his neighborhood were lucky just to have a job, Reed says — he had no idea how to turn that passion into a career.
Becoming a single father changed everything. While his existing job offered enough to make ends meet, Reed was determined to give his kids more opportunities than he’d had growing up. So to bring in a little extra money, he decided to finally give animation a shot.
First, though, he’d have to learn how.
Reed couldn’t afford a formal training program while also holding down his day job, so instead, he turned to YouTube. There were so many animation tutorials, he remembers.
“It was basically a free education. I pretty much just enrolled in what I would call YouTube University.”
Every night, after a full day of work and childcare, he would log on and sharpen his skills until the early hours of the morning — then do it all again the next day.
Within a year, Reed uploaded his first full-length cartoon under the name Cartoon Connect. Right away, people responded to his work.
“My first YouTube check was $100,” he recalls. At the time, it was a major milestone. But that was just the start.
I really come from not having much at all. So to be able to give my kids this life, to be able to continue to just make my kids proud...it’s like the best feeling.”
Soon after, Reed developed a series called Lil Ron Ron. It was an instant viral success. Immediately, his subscriber number started to climb. First a few thousand, then 100,000, then his first million.
And the checks grew, too.
“It started to be thousands of dollars a month,” Reed says.
It was enough to quit his day job and become an animator full time.
Today, Reed is living his dream, supporting his kids as an animator and encouraging other people to follow their passions. And like 63% of creators1, Reed says YouTube has brought him opportunities away from the platform, too, including comic books, custom shoe art commissions, music and more.
“It’s still kind of unbelievable,” Reed says. “I really come from not having much at all. So to be able to give my kids this life, to be able to continue to just make my kids proud...it’s like the best feeling.”
Find out more about Reed’s career journey in the video above.
1. Oxford Economics: ‘From opportunity to impact: assessing the economic, societal and cultural benefits of YouTube in the US’