Online Animations Part 1

Think of 13 year old Haleigh.

Nerdy, constantly online playing Neopets. I would look at their newspaper, called the “The Neopian Times” mind you, but I wouldn’t read any of the articles. I would look at the comics people would send in.

neopian_timesI wanted so badly to create a comic and submit it to their newspaper. I actually still have so many rough draft squirreled up in my room somewhere. All pencil drawings with fuzzy little animals on them. I don’t think I ever made the paper, but it still had a huge impact on me.

One of the biggest impacts was that someone submitted an actual animated cartoon. With voice acting and everything. I was astounded. Could someone seriously just make cartoons of their own and upload them?

Naturally, I searched out an answer. The answer is a little embarrassing. In fact, someone close to me teased me the other day about how nerdy it was.

Naruto Fan Flashes by Snowdragon. I’m cringing right now. They’re terrible to watch, especially if you’ve never seen the show. It pretty much sums up what 2007/2008 was like: random nerdy humor.

But over the years I did find out something interesting about those series of animations. There are a lot of people who have seen those animations. I mean a lot. I’m talking thousands. And those thousands of people had the same thought I did: “I want to make animations like this.”

On art websites I joined, animated cartoons would usually make the front page. They were highly popular, and usually a spoof on some video game. That was the norm. Everyone wanted to animate.

People left and right would download a program called Adobe Flash. It was a rather expensive program that would make parents weep when they searched up items on their child’s Christmas wish list. You know all those stickman fighting animations you would watch on youtube?

Now Snowdragon wasn’t the only one. Many people followed Edd Gould, the man who created the Eddsworld flashes online. They were insanely popular. So much so, close friends have continued his series even after his passing back in 2012, in memory of him.photo

Eddsworld cartoons impacted kids so much, he had copy cats of his style. I remember joining art websites and seeing look-a-likes with similar plot lines of kids and their own friends.

Just a simple search on google for “online cartoon” can bring thousands of results, with most of them being adobe flash animated cartoons. This was back in earlier 2004 to 2008 era. Online cartoon popularity grew more over the years, and it was all thanks to a particular website called Newgrounds.

Part 2 coming soon…

[Pictures from neopets.com and youtube.com]

The Renaissance

We were in a slump. Cartoons weren’t as bright, clever, or appealing anymore…at least to me they weren’t. I thought that, maybe, I just grew out of cartoons. There were a few gems here and there, but nothing I could get truly excited about. Nobody seemed to care about them. It was kind of a shame.

Then, back around 2008, I saw a pilot for a show pitch for Nickelodeon on YouTube. It was a young boy in a white rabbit hat saying ridiculous lines with his wacky, stretchy dog all the while trying to save a candy princess. The 15 year-old me loved it so much. I thought it was a hilarious short, and I showed it to all my friends and even teachers (I was quite an ecstatic child). I was obsessed with it, however, I never knew if it got picked up or any more news about it. It disappeared.

It wasn’t until two years later that I saw it being promoted as a brand new show on Cartoon Network. I freaked out. I couldn’t believe that little funny show actually got picked up. I also didn’t know how huge of a phenomenon it would become. Within the coming years, this show became so popular. I saw merchandise based on the show everywhere. Characters on shirts, backpacks, toys, and even bumper stickers (a personal favorite).

From EpicFamilyDecals on Etsy

So why does something like Adventure Time get so much acknowledgement? Why does it become so popular?

Well for one, it’s the story arc! You’re wrapped up in all of Finn’s silly and epic adventures in the Land of Ooo in each episode, but there’s an underlying plot that connects them all together. Without spoiling too much of the show, there’s a dark enemy called The Lich that haunts many of the characters throughout episodes. We also learn more about the Land of Ooo, and it’s secrets about being a post-apocalyptic world.

Screenshot from “Gravity Falls – Season 2- SDCC Trailer” on YouTube.

Similar cartoons that also have a huge following cater to the same format. Gravity Falls is another show where each episode is different, but also follows a deeper plot that allows to know more about twin’s situation in a strange town in the North West. Cryptic messages, American myths, and Illuminati mentioning. They’re quirky enough to keep fans attached and wanting to know more. Avatar: The Last Airbender has a HUGE cult following, but it’s format is a little different. Instead of quirky individual episodes with a hidden bigger plot, the plot is more upfront yet follows like an epic. Three separate books, or “chapters” if you will, that follow Aang and his friend’s adventures and watching Aang master the natural elements.

You want people to get attached to your characters, follow along with them, learn along with them. We love that stuff.

From Steven-Universe.wikia.com.

Another reason why this new wave of cartoons have become so popular is the representation of minorities is growing. Steven Universe is much like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls in that it follows the same story build with wonderfully fleshed out characters. They also have a huge cast of predominantly, non-white voice actors. LGBTQ members are also represented within the characters. Though portrayed mostly feminine, Rebecca Sugar (creator of Steven Universe) claim that the “crystal gem” characters are genderless, and there are partners in the show that illustrate queer relationships. This is a huge step for this industry. If people see a show they relate to, the more they’re going to follow and become fans of said show. If people feel represented, they’re going to feel supported, especially when there is lack of support, love and care. That’s what Steven Universe does.

From cartoonsmartblog.wordpress.com.

Then there’s the art. Art is a HUGE proponent for me, as well as other people. Companies and crew members that take the time to make sure their show looks good really does pay off. The Marvelous Misadventures of FlapJack had a great style during it’s run, with 2-D, computer drawn animation as well as some traditional work for the title cards.
Steven Universe’s character designs and backgrounds are gorgeous. Most of their works in progress are posted on their blog on tumblr
. Art is important because it’s what going to catch our eye and make us initially interested.

This is why I would call this new age of animated shows “The Renaissance of Cartoons”. Our favorite 90’s cartoons had fantastic style, and might take a political stance, but this new wave of cartoons have really catered to their audience without completely selling out. You have to remember that the creators now were inspired by the same shows we used to love, and wanted to make something just as good or even better.

The Rise and The Fall…

We all remember our favorite cartoons growing up as a kid. Especially, as a 90’s kid. Everyone remembers Doug trying to get it with Patti Mayonnaise, the Stoop Kid afraid to leave his Stoop, and us laughing at Dexter whenever Dee Dee entered his laboratory.

From heyarnold.wikia.com

We were given good cartoons as kids. As I touched on my first post, there were a lot of good cartoons, like Rugrats, that gave me a better insight on a different culture, or educated me in some way. The cartoon Hey Arnold! was very sensitive and situational. It focused on the relationships that the main character, Arnold, had with the other variety of characters within a large New York-like city.

One of my favorite examples was when three of Arnold’s classmates were mischievous (if my memory serves me correctly, I believed they mooned the principal), and somehow the blame shifted to Arnold. Arnold knew the culprits, but never said their names. He believed that it wasn’t his place to do so. That stuck with me for a long time and became one of my own philosophies when I got older.

Another character from another fantastic show was Steve from Blues Clues. He had such an impact on us because of how he talked to us through the camera. It was very personable, and he worked well with the writing of the show. Reddit recently brought a video of Steve Burns to their frontpage where he talked a bit about his experiences on the show (some of it a little racy, but nothing too terrible).

Even though his life was so vastly different than how we imagined, he was still able to come through and give us good content. Creators really did know what they were doing.

Then there’s creators where I’m not too sure they knew what we really wanted.

As some of our favorite cartoons started cancelling and or wrapping up their final seasons, some new cartoons emerged to fill in their spot. I really wanted to touch this subject and period of time because it was a really weird time for cartoon television. A good note here is that I will only touch the ones that really stood out to me…in an unfortunate way.

Between the years 2004 to 2010 I started seeing these shows pop up. It seemed like a period of really uninspired, lackluster shows that would either insult your intelligence or annoy you. Some shows that were mostly spin offs of movies, like Back at the Barnyard, which I didn’t pay much attention to for obvious reasons, and I don’t think anyone else did either. Another one that baffled me was Tak and the Power Juju, which was originally a video game from 2003 that was just okay, but got a lackluster show in 2007 that didn’t last very long.

From gympartner.wikia.com

Then there were shows that I just didn’t like at all. My Gym Partner’s a Monkey was one of them. It was a creative and cute situation, a child stuck in an animal’s school, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Another one was Camp Lazlo, which was done by the same people who did Rocko’s Modern Life. I loved all the characters in that show, but it never really got anywhere. Total Drama Island was very popular, and got picked up for several more seasons. My brother really loved that show but I was pretty indifferent. I didn’t like the animation style because I wasn’t a fan of tweening at the time (that’s for a later blogpost), nor did I like the teen humor at the time. Just wasn’t my cup of tea.

But the bane of my existence was certainly Squirrel Boy. How that show even got picked up, I’m not really sure.

It could be that since I was getting older, that I just wasn’t the demographic anymore. Those shows weren’t suppose to appeal to me because they weren’t for me. My brother really enjoyed watching Total Drama Island, and I would sit with him and watch it. Some people really enjoyed My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, and would even draw fanart of it.

Nobody liked Squirrel Boy though.

Maybe I was just out of the loop now. Maybe I was growing up? Maybe I wasn’t suppose to like cartoons anymore.

However, some creators were about to blow that thought out of the water, and save everyone’s day.

From silhouettesfree.com

An Animated World

What have cartoons done for you?

Has it been a route of escapism from a dull life? Have they made you laugh? Have they made you cry? Have they made you rethink people, society, or even made you rethink yourself?

They have for me.

You can deny it if you want to, but cartoons have had a huge impact on the culture surrounding us. Not just in entertainment, either. There are many animated cartoons that have taken stances politically. Some of them you might even relate to. If you watch an episode of Family Guy, it’s very topical! Same with South Park, or even Steven Universe which has a lot of connections with the LGTBQ community. They allow a voice to those those whom are rarely heard. They provide a good platform.

They provide a different means of storytelling. They intrigued a certain audience. They’ll cater to that audience and also provide new ideas, like how the Magic School Bus did for many us in elementary school. I was encourage to get messy and make mistakes!

Source: thingsmissfrizzlewouldwear.tumblr.com

Cartoons have been mostly thought of for children, and I think that’s the wrong mindset. Not only do we have cartoons for adults (which is the most common argument), you have to remember that cartoons are produced by adults. Adults that have done research. Adults that have thought up characters and, most of the time, carefully written story-arcs made specifically for children (or the child at heart), even when they’re nonsensical or serious.

Really, cartoons can allow anything to happen. They provide a means for thoughts to be fully fleshed out and brought to life. Making cartoons is just as important as writing carefully: you have to be careful in the way you show a story, not just tell it. One example of how a cartoon really impacted how I saw the world was Rugrats. The creators of that show were very deliberate with what story they wanted to tell, and what they wanted to show to it’s younger audience. It’s because of Rugrats that I was introduced to Judaism.

Source: blog.eretzyisrael.org

What makes it interesting was that even though I was raised a Christian, and went to church, “Jew” was only a word to me. It wasn’t so much that they tried to deliberately leave out Judaism. We just mostly focused on Jesus and other Bible stories that never really focused on the history or culture. Rugrats gave me some insight on Jewish culture.

Another way that I was impacted was how cartoons, animation and comics in general, provided a new hobby for me. I started drawing. Drawing took up a huge part of my life. I would constantly draw characters and different worlds. I thought I would be apart of PIXAR growing up. As a matter of fact, I did my high school senior project on the innovation the company provided. I, for sure, thought I was going to be an animator when I grew up. However, I really couldn’t afford the top art schools in the country that would help me set off my career, so I stayed settled in Nashville, still waiting for my turn. One day, I really would like to participate in a company that creates animated shows.

So now, I study them. It might be just a sorry excuse to just watch cartoons all the time, but it’s a legitimate business that’s very complicated. Not many people know what goes on in the world of animating, and I would love to open that up to people. I’d like other people to relate to my excitement.

Source: kyleboy21da.tumblr.com

[Pictures from Magic School Bus, Rugrats and Wander Over Yonder]