Tuesday, April 20, 2004

There's an interesting new trend in animation these days: bad animation. That's right, if you haven't noticed it yet, pay attention, because bad animation and odd non sequitur are on the rise.

The anarchy of the internet brings about with it a blessing and a curse (I'd like to think more of the latter), and that is that anyone can create something and put it up for all the world to see. With programs like Flash making it insanely easy to put together SOME sort of animation (or at the very least, easier than it used to be), it seems anyone who really wants to make a cartoon can.

I think it started somewhere around the point that South Park became popularized. Though their songs and things of that nature are quite clever, the cartoon is built on the foundation of little construction-paper children cursing at each other, which, however you argue it, doesn't really ring of animation craftsmanship. Although I think most people liked it for the humor rather than the style, this was definitely one of the first stirrings of this new trend.

The human brain has a certain area that analyzes whether or not any information or a situation is "absurd." If so, it triggers a response: laughter. It's natural then that some semblance of humor could be achieved from simple randomness, non sequitur, odd little outbursts. This started to become popular in America with the wave of Japanese animation that came our way. A great example is the character "Ed" from the series, Cowboy Bebop. She (yes, she) doesn't do anything particularly funny-- it's just the randomness associated with the character. This sort of thing was executed most brilliantly in Jhonen Vascquez's Invader Zim, in which the character Gir randomly exclaims "I made potatoes!" Yes, Gir had made potatoes. And muffins.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Zim and a mild fan of Cowboy Bebop. I'm just explaining what paved the way for the material I'm about to discuss to become acceptable to American tastes.

So the stage is set. We now have a medium where people can publish anything, and a form of humor and storytelling that requires neither artistic talent nor the ability to write jokes.

It was then that I started hearing more and more of my friends get addicted to several web cartoons. Now, these are ordinary people, and for all our ranting and raving about "good animation" versus "bad animation," these are people who aren't turning on the DVD player or TV, and are instead looking to these web cartoons.

The most popular among this particular circle was, undoubtedly, was Mr. Beebo (site appears to be down). In it, a small cat with a moustache is caught smoking cigarettes and has the crap beat out of him. Beebo and his owner (apparently australian or something) go on several misadventures. There is no point whatsoever. The acting and animation are absolutely horrid.

And they crack up laughing over it.

Maybe half of the laughter is over the simple fact that someone spent their time and made this. Maybe in a culture so riddled with cliches, an escape from ANY sort of structure is more surprising and humorous than jokes written with some sense of craft.

In any event, this style of animation proliferated, and was largely just an endearing facet of the world wide web. The something happened. Something unexpected.

One of these bums got hired.

You've all seen it. That "Quizno's" commercial. The one with the two "spongmonkeys" (yes, that's their name) playing an acoustic guitars and singing about why they love Quizno's subs. Some loved it. Some hated it. It definitely caught the viewers' attention, and really that's what it attempted to do.

That commercial is the work of Joel Veitch, and it wasn't a fluke. He also does advertising for Switch/Maestro and Crusha in the UK, and VH1 in the US. He's also had television specials on BBC in the UK. You can view his animations at RatherGood.com.

How will this affect the animation industry? I'm not exactly sure, but my gut reaction is "not that much." Cinematic animation will remain virtually untouched, since movies are generally heading the way of "Nemo" rather than "Quizno." Although this type of animation has tested the waters of television, I doubt it will ever dive fully into it, simply because this type of humor is far too unpredictable for current network executive tastes.

Ultimately I think this is simply a fad. But it's an interesting fad, and one that may have had some indirect impact on audience's ability to stomach the growing number of Flash-animated cartoons on television (Gary the Rat, Mucha Lucha).

   - posted by Tyler Sticka @

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