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Web Toons You Need to See 2009

Rick DeMott, editor of AWNtv, recaps the trends and talent that broke on the Web animation scene in 2008. Witness the best from around the Net, as well as the best from AWNtv according to you the viewer.

End of year/beginning of the year lists are everywhere. So in our third year of doing so, AWN lets the dust settle a bit before unveiling the web animation from the previous year that we think you need to see. Because everyone loves lists, we have two for you. To avoid prejudice, we present our ten favorite animated shorts from around the Web, and a top ten list from within AWNtv formed from the votes of our viewers. These shorts run the gamut from humorous to heartwarming. They represent growing trends in web animation, as well as celebrating viral sensations. Check out what we've collected for you then tell us what you think we might have missed.

Ten from Around the Web

Dog of Man by David Firth

David Firth of has been making messed up toons for the Net for years, but he took on a new level of twisted brilliance in 2008 with Dog of Man. This subversive ode to loneliness and friendship starts out really strange and finds ways of getting stranger as it goes along. But when you get past the oddness, one begins to rethink all the tear-jerking tales of the ultimate sacrifice that have come before it. Dog stands as a great parasitic twin for Firth's Salad Fingers series.

GhostFight - BOS – Part 1 by Justsolo

Stick figure fights litter video sites all over the Net. The trend is rampant. However, none of them come close to the quality of Justsolo's GhostFight. From the fluidly timed animation to the great sound, this stick figure battle takes the genre to a new level of style and skill that hasn't been seen before.

L’art de l’évasion (The Art of Escape) by Mathieu Ratier

This 2D student short caught my attention on the Net this year for its simple sense of story and its wonderfully executed use of free-form animation. I dare the viewer to name all the design influences that flow through the dream sequence of the prisoner trying to escape his sad life through art. In the end, the conclusion says something profound about the need for art in the current world climate.

MUTO by Blu

How many of you got emailed this video? MUTO wins the coolest concept of 2008 award for sure. The dedication and expertise on display in this nearly seven-minute masterpiece of free-form animation is staggering. When most artists painstakingly try to hide the filmmaking process, Blu puts it on display, making us think about the work that went into making the film as part of the work itself. In doing so, Blu not only presents an experimental exercise in movement, but a comment on the animation process in general.

Octocat by David O'Reilly

David O'Reilly played a prank on the world that turned into one of the most debated toons to hit the Web in 2008. Posing as a teen animator named Randy Peters, O'Reilly unleashed five episodes of a "crudely" animated adventure of a half octopus-half cat creature in search of his parents. Randy Peters' animation and storytelling skills mature over the course of the series. O'Reilly's full talents emerge in the end for the climactic battle. O'Reilly set out to prove that slick animation was not needed to entertain people, and in the end he reminds the viewer that most animator's careers started with doodles in a notebook.

Simon's Cat "Let Me In!" by Simon Tofield

If you've ever owned a cat then Simon Tofield's Simon's Cat series will feel so familiar. Picking one episode of the series is like picking one's favorite child, but "Let Me In!" represents everything great about the series. Tofield's skill at performance and timing is impeccable. Gags flow from one to the other effortlessly, remembering that nothing is funnier than the recognition of shared experiences.

Spaghetti Western by PES

PES latest experiment in found object stop-motion brought his work to a vast audience in 2008. Making several viral videos of the year lists, PES cooked up a clever toon in simply replacing the ingredients of a spaghetti dinner with unexpected household items and classic toys. For those in the world of animation, PES has been entertaining us since his brilliant Roof Sex first hit the animation festival circuit. Now the Net has brought his ingenious use of animation to the masses.

The Street Magician by Andrew Ferguson

Andrew Ferguson's The Street Magician was another wonderful student calling card that hit the Web in 2008. This ode to Charlie Chaplin is also an ode to the fundamentals of animationgreat acting and actually funny gags. The weakest part of so many student shorts is the timing, but Ferguson is a natural. Oh, and he can draw too.

SuperNews "Top Gov" from CurrentTV

Current TV's SuperNews had several good episodes in 2008, especially it's "Gates vs. Jobs" parody. But "Top Gov" ranked up there as one of the best election satires. They're not the only ones to draw the connection between the McCain/Palin ticket and Top Gun, but none of them used the scenario as effectively. This consistently funny series took on the political satire tend and provided not only a good satire of the election, but of the Tom Cruise pop classic as well.

There She Is! "Imagine" by amalloc

This Korean pop music driven animated series from SamBakZa gained a big fan base on the Net in 2008. Cute character designs and fast paced action turn this love story into a heartwarming entertainment. It goes to show that one can take a familiar story and execute it in a new fashion, creating an engaging experience for the viewer. Additionally, it shows how animation has the ability to transcend cultural boundaries more easily than live-action.

Ten from AWNtv

Big Buck Bunny by Sacha Goedegebure

Created through an open source film fund, this lush CG short tells the tale of an oversized bunny who finds a humorous way to get back at some furry tormentors.

The Clod by Jaromir Plachy

Jaromir Plachy's hilarious black & white 2D short is a perfectly timed tale of a small creature scared out of its wits that a giant beast is about to destroy his home.

E2-E4 by Eduard Sidoruk

This wonderfully designed cut-out animation presents a unique political satire as to fat cats play a deadly game of chess using modern forms of warfare.

Emily in the Clouds by Clayton Mitchell

Clayton Mitchell's student CG short has a subversive streak that reminds us that perspective determines whether a rainy day is gloomy or not. Give us real smiles over plastic ones any day, I say.

Gettin' Out starring Peanut Pete by Mike Kirwin

This uniquely designed CG short brings another prison tale to the lists. Peanut Pete is getting out of jail and he has a surprise waiting for him on the outside.

Papiroflexia by Joaquin Baldwin

Joaquin Baldwin's beautifully designed CG short tells the magical story of man whose origami skills bring more nature back to his urban environment.

The Pouring Out or... Gabiru's Memories by Sergio Glenes

Set to a mournful Brazilian samba, this gorgeously rendered 2D short from Sergio Glenes tells the heart-rending tale of living in the harsh slums of South America.

Ruby Rocket Private Detective by Sam Niemann and Stacey Hallal

One of the early 2008 hits on AWNtv, Ruby Rocket Private Detective flips the film noir private eye stereotypes on their ear in this humorous 2D production.

Sebastian's Voodoo by Joaquin Baldwin

Joaquin Baldwin makes a second appearance on the list with his award-winning CG student short about a brave voodoo doll torn between saving his own burlap hide or that of his friends.

Yellow by Ivan Rusev

Yellow from Ivan Rusev uses cut-outs to create a cast of demented characters living in an off-kilter world where one man's tragedy is a whole community's form of entertainment.

( AWNtv shorts were selected from those films acquired by AWNtv in 2008 from the years 2007 & 2008, which received at least 20 votes from the viewers.)

Rick DeMott is the managing editor of Animation World Network and editor of AWNtv. In his free time, he runs the movie review site, Rick's Flicks Picks. He has written for TV series, such as Discovery Kids' Growing Up Creepie and Cartoon Network's Pet Alien, the animation history book Animation Art, and the humor, absurdist and surrealist website Unloosen. Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks