In compiling a showcase of Web animation, one quickly discovers the vast amount of content that is out there. Everyone loves to read lists. We're addicted to them. The compulsion to see what is included is hard to resist. However constructing them is a tough venture. With such a vast amount of intriguing animated work being done for the Web, creating a definitive list of "The Best" is both futile and arbitrary. This showcase by no means constitutes everything great from 2006, but just a sampling. Included are big names in the industry and independents that made a name for themselves on the Web with something new. We hope the showcase provides readers a glimpse into the variety of work being done for the Web and the quality level of the productions. We also encourage readers to post in the comments section other shorts and webisodes from 2006 that aren't in the showcase, which deserve attention as well.
Akumi -- Episode 2 -- The Hunter
The young female assassin, Akumi, heads out to kill her mark - a violent monster rapist. After the shocking first episode, which had to be edited for broadcast on YouTube, the anime-inspired Akumi Web series really hits its stride in the second episode with sharper dialogue and wonderful action and subtle acting. Akumi is a good example of a production that would be nearly impossible to produce in the U.S., especially for TV or even the direct-to-video market. The second episode of the series not only displays the skills of the animators, which includes creator Milton Pool, but also the potential for a series to grow in quality as it proceeds.
Arj and Poopy -- Unlucky in Love
Arj laments to his cat Poopy when his girlfriend's excuse for breaking up with him seems questionable. Bernard Derriman, who is well known on the Net for his music video for Everyone Has Had More Sex Than Me, and Arj Barker won Annecy for this well-written comedy. The Unlucky in Love episode is a perfect example of subtlety going a long way. Well-timed looks create big laughs. There's also a richness to the artwork that is sometimes lacking from many Internet productions.
Doogtoons Asks a Ninja -- The Truth About Darth Vader
A ninja reveals the secrets behind the distinctive voice of Star Wars' black-clad villain Darth Vader. For the popular AskANinja.com site, Doogtoons produces Flash shorts that show how simple animation can work wonderfully when it's well timed. The humorous monologue is only enhanced by the witty visuals. And, as other toons in the showcase, it shows George Lucas' space epic still inspires filmmakers of all mediums.
Aggression rules as two neighboring villages fight over the control of the gifts from strange giant robots. In competition at the 2006 Annecy Festival, Bendito Machine, with its distinctive silhouette style, shows how simple design can create an evocative environment. The Net is filled with "message" films, but few convey their anti-war stance as universally and originally as Zumbakamera's Flash-production. Great design, writing and timing come together in a funny and poignant short.
Cheney's Got a Gun
Dick Cheney's got a gun, and everybody better run! This viral sensation is a prime example of the Internet's ability to ride the wave of topical news stories and do it with humor and skill. The Bob Rivers Show and ToonedIn.com teamed to quickly produce this spoof of Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" soon after vice president Dick Cheney's hunting accident. Combining funny lyrics and simple, yet effective, animation, the short compelled people to drop this toon in all their friends and family's inboxes.
Death, Kitty and the Fat Man
While in search of his next soul, Death's plans change when he runs into a cute, curious kitty. After Malaysian animator Daim Dziauddin's final year short made it onto Weebls-stuff.com, it was quickly picked up by many other sites soon after. Its cool design style and simple well-told story provide a nice calling card for the young animator. It's also encouraging to see that despite geographical locale skilled animators can use the Net to help launch their careers. Like many productions in the showcase, Death, Kitty and the Fat Man proves that full animation can be done in Flash.
Family Pants -- Canned Ham
During a family outing, Frank's spilled coffee creates a police incident featuring a "canned ham." Dave Redl's Family Pants series is a shiny example of the growing trend with comic strip/editorial cartoonists moving into animation on the Net. Family Pants started as an online comic strip and then moved into animation. Redl brings a great cartoonist's style and feel to the humorous shorts. It goes to show what one person can do out of their home studio in New Jersey.
Fuggy, Fuggy The Brothers McLeod
Fuggy, Fuggy tells the tale of a trainee Ninja and his physical and spiritual enlightenment. The Brothers McLeod really broke out in 2006 with such successes as Fuggy, Fuggy and Spamland. Fuggy, Fuggy garnered Greg and Myles a production deal with MTV. Essentially a string of gags as a young ninja trains, the production brings a rare hand-drawn quality to Flash animation that is refreshing. Using the simple training premise, The Brothers McLeod distinguish each segment with fluid and expressive animation. Fuggy, Fuggy also shows that, like Star Wars, ninjas were a big inspiration in '06.
Happy Tree Friends -- Ski Ya Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya
Flaky enjoys the rush of the slopes. Like some of the others on the list, the list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Mondo Media's Happy Tree Friends. As the first real brand to be developed on the Web, 2006 marked the debut of the franchise on TV. With expanded running times, the recent shorts, like Ski Ya Wouldn't Wanna Be Ya, have grown narratively allowing time to build tension before the blood and guts explode. The cute designs and unabashed violence tap into fans sadistic sides, but now the series has room for some nice character moments.
It's JerryTime -- The Brute
Jerry comes up with a bitter revenge plot against a muscle-head hockey player after the brute continually drinks out of Jerry's water bottle. The Internet winner at Ottawa uses an exaggerated cutout style, which is part of the fun of the series. Solid writing is brought to life by strongly defined characters, great voice work and well-timed, simple acting. This is a great example of good storytelling serving as the foundation for success.
A determined small bird goes to extreme extents to experience his dream. Produced at the School of Visual Arts, this CG short proves that great animation will outshine a slick look anytime. Dony Permedi's bittersweet short also shows how a great student film plus YouTube can provide a fledgling animator a profound calling card. By picking a simple, yet effective, CG design style, Permedi gave himself time to showoff his skills at creating a compelling, expressive character.
Near passing out during a boring meeting, an office worker jumps off the deep end. Creator Laith Bahrani is another one-man show on the Net, creating a Web series of sardonic looks at the soul-sucking nature of office work. A dark twist on Dilbert-like situations, Low Morale is a droll hit that has gathered 800,000 unique visitors since 2004. It's unique look and witty stories have gained a fan base that returns for the on-going series.
All men of the world can find common ground in these simple rules of male restroom etiquette. Machinima is often looked at as a redheaded stepchild in the animation industry. Using EA's The Sims 2 and SimCity 4, Phil Rice created this humorous instructional video laying out the previously unspoken rules determining male behavior in a public restroom. Male Restroom Etiquette shows that a skilled filmmaker can create compelling performances and stories in machinima.
Note: This film created by Phil Rice (Overman, Zarathustra Studios) using The Sims 2 and SimCity 4 by EA Games. The copyright holder of The Sims 2 and SimCity 4 is Electronic Arts Inc., all rights reserved. This film is not a product of Electronic Arts Inc., nor is this film associated with Electronic Arts Inc. in any way. The filmmaker (Phil Rice) takes full responsibility for the content of this film.
A musical collection of all the highlights of 2006. Any best of the Web list would be inadequate without a nod to JibJab Media. Due to exclusivity issues, the Brothers Spiridellis couldn't provide us with Nuckin' Futs, but then again who hasn't seen it already. As the reigning champs of how a viral Web short can skyrocket one's career, this year-end wrap-up is one of the studio's slickest productions. Over the years, they have perfected their cutout style, but the humor and execution have never lagged from day one. The Tonight Show regulars are the torchbearers when it comes to topical satire on the Net.
Sock fungi become too tempting not to eat for hungry Boris, Alexei and Kopek. Perestroika was nominated for the Internet animation sections at the Annecy, Ottawa and Zagreb International Animation Festivals. Using a variety of animation styles and formats, the series' distinct look is like nothing else out on the Web. Created by Ryosuke Aoike, the series has a unique sense of humor that had audiences in Ottawa laughing out loud.
Strong Bad answers reader e-mails in a collection of hilarious shorts. Though HomeStarRunner creators Matt and Mike Chapman didn't get back to us in time to get something specific in the showcase, we felt a "best of the Web" list would be incomplete if the work of HomeStarRunner was not mentioned. The envy of all independents on the Internet, HomeStarRunner continues to exemplify what a few artists can accomplish on their own using the Web as their delivery tool. Consistently hilarious and always produced at the highest quality, anything the brothers do is worth checking out.
Alien observers learn the two things that human beings really love to do. We know this film actually came out in 2005, but it was selected for the 2006 Annecy Festival. Like Bendito Machine, this anti-war film finds a unique framework to tell its message. The design work draws one in and many of the gags work because they find less than obvious punch lines, delivered strongly by subtle acting. The one-person production also uses lively titles effectively in lieu of dialogue or voice over.
This music video displays the ramifications of illegally downloading music from the Internet. Produced by Acme Filmworks and directed by Bill Plympton, this animated music video is a nice cross between commerce and art. Utilizing different looks throughout, Plympton's hand-drawn style and flare for the absurd fit wonderfully with the comical tunes of "Weird Al" Yankovic. Not only did the short get picked up all across the Internet, it helped "Weird Al" score the highest ranking on the Billboard charts of his career. It goes to show that free access to content can also generate revue in the end.
A faun tries to escape from a black gaseous creature that chases him through the forest. This sequel to littleFoot is another gorgeous fully-animated Flash production from Adam Phillips. At first a viewer might not even know it was created in Flash. The movement is gracefully fluid and the action is wonderfully timed to the rousing musical score. Evocative use of color and design also help drive the simple narrative.
Using actual audio from propaganda films made by the U.S. government in the '40s and '50s, the Z-Files exposes the absurd way in which the dangers of the atom bomb were minimized. Short and sweet, this well-designed Web series quickly gets laughs with nice acting that exaggerates the ridiculousness of dated PSAs. From the black-and-white character design to the newsreel opening, Zee Risek captures the tone just right.
Rick DeMott is the managing editor of Animation World Network. In his free time, he works as an animation writer for television. His work on the new series, Growing Up Creepie, can be seen on Discovery Kids. Additionally, he publishes movie reviews at his blog, . Previously, he held various production and management positions in the entertainment industry. He is a contributor to the book as well as the humor, absurdist and surrealist short story website .