The AWN Media Center brain trust of Rick DeMott and Mo Whelan have scoured the Net looking for a collection of Web animation from 2007 that we feel needs to be seen. Witness what special treats we have found.
Last year AWN published an article chronicling the best animation on the Web. A year later the amount of Web animation has only grown. So instead of doing an arbitrary sampling of the "best" Web toons, we have compiled a list of some of our favorites from 2007 that we feel you need to check out. They represent trends, as well as the growing talent of animators working on the Net. Some were chosen for their aesthetic qualities, others were chosen for their storytelling and some were chosen for their sheer audacity. They represent varying genres and varying styles and techniques. We have shorts from all over the globe... from Argentina to Iran. Sit back, relax and behold this collection of the best that the Internet has to offer animation fans.
Candy Hole: Episode 1 Candy is Good by Brian Frisk
If the Happy Tree Friends have demented cousins, it's probably the bunny and cat from Brain Frisk's Candy Hole. This twisted cut-out Flash series is a gory spoof of children's entertainment. The characters, with their mouths of yellow, jagged teeth, are frightening... and that's a compliment. With its subversive humor taking pokes at such toons as SpongeBob, this initial episode challenges the sunny disposition and pro-social messages of toons for youngsters. The Net is a breeding ground for off-kilter productions and Candy Hole is a promising new entry in the world of bizarre animation.
Doll Face by Andy Huang
Andy Huang's Doll Face is a bit of a cheat for 2007, having been copyrighted in 2005. Huang created his live-action/CG hybrid while at USC. The short made waves over the Net this past year, winning Sony-owned Crackle.com's first Wet Paint animation contest. As for the film, the dialogue-free short is a masterful convergence between theme and style. With its simple story, it makes powerful statements about the ever-heightening standard of beauty. Huang's integration of live-action elements and CG is impressive, raising the bar for the work being produced by young visual effects artists. Additionally, it shows other aspiring visual effects artists that honing technical skills is clearly valuable, but focusing on storytelling skills will make a much bigger impression.
Eco-Bunnies II: Earth Day Escapade by Jimmy Egeland
Activism and animation have been best buds since the early days of dial-up. With the acceptance of climate change as a problem growing stronger in 2007, we felt that a Webtoon dealing with the issue needed to make the cut. So, coming to save the day are The Eco-Bunnies! Unlike too many activism shorts on the Net, Jimmy Egeland's Web series doesn't neglect the animation or the characters by putting the message first. The use of animation in public service announcements dates back to the near-dawn of the medium and Eco-Bunnies carries on the tradition of using a spoonful of humorous animation to help the medicine go down.
George Grows by Martin Schmidt
The circle of life is a popular theme with animated shorts. Martin Schmidt's CG student film popped up online last year and walked out from the crowd of toons with the same theme. For all intents and purposes, it's a walk cycle against a white backdrop. However, Schmidt makes the stride of the character stand for much more. As a baby crawls along, he begins to walk, and over the course of the story subtly morphs into an old man. The timing is crucial. The filmmaker allows the jokes to set themselves up slowly when needed, but then pops in a quick gag that is unexpected. None of the gags are arbitrary; they always connect nicely back to the toon's universal theme of aging.
The Last Song of My Neighboring Girl Before They Burn All Her Dreams by Mashaallah Mohammadi
We discovered the work of Iranian Mashaallah Mohammadi via the Animadrid website and we've been haunted ever since. With a textured take on a stick-figure design combined with emotionally charged music, the animator evokes a great deal of feeling. Part of the melancholy is created by his use of color. Mostly in black & white, the dashes of red help add exclamation points to the dramatic story. From an artist working in a country divided, this hand-drawn short tells a personal story that also speaks on a grander scale.
The Look of Love by Lindsay Thompson
Women animators rarely get a platform in mainstream animation. We discovered Lindsay Thompson's CG student film via AnimaWatch.com and were impressed. Filled with traditional gag humor, the toon follows a woman's unsuccessful attempts to capture the attention of a man in a diner. Thompson uses the premise to focus on the acting of her characters. Without dialogue, the female lead's facial expression tells us exactly what she is thinking and, more importantly, feeling. With appealing character designs and nice lighting, this CG short has a warm feel that is inviting. The Look of Love proves that the Internet is a prime place for artists and viewers to find points of view that TV and theatrical features underrepresent.
The Sinners (Los Pecadores) by Pablo Polledri
Few films in this year's collection reach the twisted brilliance of Pablo Polledri's The Sinners. The simple setting allows for the demented characters to play out against a well-timed minimal soundtrack. Though the Argentinean animator gives brief subtitles for the English-speaking viewer, his attention to the emotions of his characters makes it easy to decipher the difference between greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, lust, sloth and pride without the need for the translation. If you check out his site ManiacPlanet.com.ar, you'll find that his dark sense of irony carries over into all his work.
Space Alone by Ilias Sounas
Ilias Sounas' Space Alone is unique for Flash-animated Webtoons due to the detail of its design. From the exquisite star field and planets, to the weathered film treatment over the entire film, Sounas paints a rich environment that evokes nicely a tone of loneliness, while still injecting a hint of hope. From the synthesizer music to the character designs, Sounas' anime influences are evident. Though the design work, especially the great use of color, is a highlight of the short, it doesn't supersede the story. Space Alone is a good example of how design, story and character animation work together organically to communicate the feelings of the spaceman and his alien friend, as well as the intentions of the filmmaker.
Suckers: Episode 2 by Lola and BekSuckers is a new Web series that is improving as it goes along. With the animation being minimal, the design is what captivated us about this gothic series featuring vampires and imprisoned mosquitoes. In under a minute, Lola and Bek create quick ironic tales that are perfectly timed to their music and sound effects. Suckers, like many shorts online and off, stands as not only a piece of entertainment, but also a nice calling card for its studio. The horror- and humor-infused Flash toon is a good example of how the Web serves as a great opportunity to sharpen one's skills and promote one's work at the same time.
Plushood: Meet Your New Neighbors by Shlomi Schillinger and Tamar Moshkovitz
Plushood came in a day too late to make the original pub date for this article, but it's too good to not add in. Consider it a great bonus track. In the pilot episode, the adventure is split up into three separate mini-stories. From the Israeli duo of Schillinger and Moshkovitz, the twisted Web toon has a vibe that crosses the tone of Happy Tree Friends with the work of John K and Craig McCracken. The warped little tales have great timing and evoke character wonderfully. Friendly Vigo's reaction to malicious Pinto's mutated flower makes us laugh every time.
Rick DeMott is AWN's Managing Editor, where he not only manages the day-to-day operations of AWN editorial output, but is also responsible for helping curate films for the AWN Media Center, which will soon morph into AWN TV, Animation World Network's online animation destination featuring a collection of top-notch animated short films from around the world. In his spare time, he has written for the Emmy-nominated TV series Growing Up Creepy and created the movie review website