Saturday, 1 September 2012

Digital Canvas - Moving Pictures

In previous articles I have talked about how some webcomics utilise the opportunities of their chosen media by including various Flash or GIF animations to create a mixture of moving and stationary art. But what of those creators who decide to go all the way, creating a series of animations to rival their favourite Saturday-morning cartoons via the advent of the internet? This article is for those brave few.

If you’re wanting to discover a great animated web-series, a good place to start is a video/animation-sharing community site such as YouTube or Newgrounds, where creative types can easily upload their works and receive almost instant kudos or much-needed criticism.

A good example on the Newgrounds site is a Korean series called “There She Is!!”, made by a small independent animation studio called SamBakZa. The series of short cartoons (mostly set to music and without dialogue so as to cater to an international audience) follows a rabbit girl falling in love with a cat boy, in a world where inter-species romance is seen as taboo. The first few episodes are light-hearted and filled with humour, but the story progresses into much darker territory, exploring the consequences of prejudice and the ups and downs of love. This series would not have come about (and SamBakZa would not have gotten much needed financial backing) without the huge success of the first instalment via Newgrounds bringing this foreign oddity to the English-speaking world.

A wonderfully silly example of a web-toon series on YouTube would be “Baman and Piderman”, following the bizarre exploits of the child-like parodies of Batman and Spider-Man, who here share a house together and are “best fweinds”. The duo are often found relaxing and doing fun activities together, but they’ve also had such surreal adventures as awkwardly confronting the bad-guy versions of themselves in their basement, and embarking on a quest to save their friend - a pumpkin - from slowly rotting away. The wonderfully old style animation, created by the same people behind tv cartoon Happy Tree Friends, is very reminiscent of Rhubarb And Custard cartoons.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more Britishness to its humour, try Weebl’s Stuff, a site that primarily showcases the animations of a small team headed by one British guy called Jonti “Weebl” Picking. Mr Picking has found some moderate success creating viral animated advertising for several products, and even a few TV commercials. The site hosts a number of different animated series’ dreamt up by Jonti and others, including the highly popular Weebl And Bob series, following the misadventures of two egg-shaped beings and their quest for pie. Also of note are the wide range of musical toons, where the weird (sometimes NSFW) animations play out the scenes sung about in the humorous song lyrics. Indeed, the site makes ends meet from marketing albums of these bizarre songs on iTunes (I highly recommend the ode to Stephen Fry on the “Magical Chalk Toilet” album). I feel the need to warn you that much of this site could be considered “odd”, chalk it up to the British sense of humour.

If you prefer something with a little more finesse to it, the slow-to-update but rather enthralling Bitey Castle might be the place for you. The Brackenwood series (named for the fully realised forest setting in which the action takes place) mainly follows a rather mischievous speedy imp called Bitey, a true anti-hero bully that you can’t help but root for, in a sequoian world of fantastical plants and animals. The series is created by ex-Disney employee Adam Phillips, and his past employment truly shines through with every beautiful frame. The site also hosts a series of tutorials and tips if you want to digitally animate like a pro too!

Lastly but certainly not leastly, any list of recommended web animations just HAS to include the sadly defunct Homestar Runner. A true web phenomenon of the early 2000’s, the site managed the impossible (at the time) of netting a profit without the help of banner adverts, purely via merchandise sales alone. Basically it was an homage/parody of your average saturday morning cartoon, but with a good dollop of bizarre and a side order of snarky college humour, following the adventures of silly sportsman Homestar and his various oddly-shaped friends. Unfortunately the site hasn’t been active for quite some time, but the huge archive of animations should keep anyone busy for many days!

Todd Marsh wishes he had the time and a good excuse to watch kids cartoons all day.

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