originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/648170...

It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the big 50… and in a few weeks I’ll have managed a full year of Animation Nights every Thursday.

Gif source: @hoodiedeer

This week, I’m returning to one of my earliest themes: the independent web animation scenes we first visited in Animation Night #10. Last time, we went on a bit of a historical survey of the classics: the Newgrounds flash scene of Xiao Xiao and Bitey, the charm of SamBakZa’s There She Is!, the wonderful body horror fractals of Cyriak, and the most recent stylish generation of indie animators on youtube like Felix Colgrave and Vewn. Check that post for the full list!

Well what’s happened since then? Many of these animators have dropped new videos, and I’ve been introduced to a few more. So I have some pretty sick stuff to show… we’ll get to that in a minute!

Gif source: @thejohnsu

At the same time, the sword of Damocles has fallen: Flash player is now officially killed off - with lossy, high bandwidth raster video apparently considered preferable to building a secure, backwards-compatible swf player, as far as the powers that be are concerned! Sure, the actual software, now called Adobe Animate, still exists (competing with others like Toonboom as general purpose vector animation software), but while before just about anyone could get their hands on a pirated copy of Flash, the present version is locked into Adobe’s subscription ecosystem…

(for more, see Nathalie Lawhead’s v good writeup on the death of the Flash website)

Is this going to prove “good” or “bad” for web animation? Who the fuck even knows lol. It’s definitely a very different scene these days: Flash has given way to genuinely free tools like Blender Grease Pencil, Krita and OpenToonz, and for those who can afford them, pro tools like TVPaint and ToonBoom. These tend to enable much more sophisticated animation workflows, but you also face a steep learning curve.

The economics has also changed a lot: nowadays people can devote themselves to it full time if they can attract some kind of Patreon audience. The way that shakes out is that a lot of today’s web animators are doing much more “technically impressive” stuff than anyone could do in Flash back then, both technically and often narratively (NG’s 5MB limit was a pretty harsh creative restriction)…

But something was still lost, I feel? Precisely because the technical standard was not especially high, the old Flash scene was a kind of supportive ecosystem where people could experiment without (much) judgement. Money was not involved, which meant that essentially everyone there was in it for fun - and that’s a barrier for entry, admittedly. Still, that world meant someone like Felix Colgrave could get started with shorts like the one above, and find an appreciative audience, long before the days of ‘Double King’. Today, it feels like the pressure is heavier: everything has to be oriented towards self-promotion on the wheel of Content, to build that same Patreon or Youtube audience.

Of course, there’s no point wishing for a more innocent internet… or pretending that, without nostalgia goggles, the majority of stuff on NG back then wasn’t kinda shit lmao.

Gif source: @gatekid3

Luckily, there are efforts to preserve the old Flash videos! The Internet Archive has a clever WebAssembly-based flash player alternative, and an impressive (if hard to navigate) collection of Flash videos. Another substantial archive is maintained, using the original Flash Player in a special sandboxed browser, as BlueMaxima’s “Flashpoint”. Meanwhile, Newgrounds have batch converted their entire database to raster video, and still seems to have a healthy community producing original animation for their weirdly gamified rating system - some of it, like Gooseworx below, is indeed really good. This won’t save the stuff that’s not part of these big archives, the swfs on obscure self-hosted websites, but it’s not all gone!

Anyway, that’s my little soapbox over! There are many ways things are much better for indie animators who can’t afford to go to animation school. For one, there’s so many more good, free resources now than ever before - to name a few who’ve helped me, check out *deep breath* [Toniko Pantoja] [Striving For Animation] [Dong Chang] [Studio Bulldog] [Howard Wimshurst] [Aaron Blaise] [Ian Hubert]… and there’s an abundance of less centralised ways for people to get a start like Multi Animator Projects and animation memes. Not to mention the influence of the sakuga fandom giving people lofty inspiration… it’s still an exciting time!

And who knows, maybe one day the Grease Pencil user community will be as vibrant as the old Flash one.

So who are we watching today then? Let’s reel em off!

the returning stars…

the ppl we saw last time have not stopped animating…

Felix Colgrave, the extremely talented Australian behind Double King, dropped a new video called Throat Notes full of his usual surreal, psychedelic imagery! This one’s about bugs.

Gooseworx is the person who got me to look back at Newgrounds, by making some really perfectly timed videos with a great sense of weird comedy and squishy, bouncy movement. Her Little Runmo we saw last time, but now she’s dropped a much longer sequel to Elain the Bounty Hunter in Elain Gets Adopted! Can our triangle girl get out of being a human(…ish?) pet?

Jonni Phillips is hard at work on her feature-length film Barber Westchester (which may stretch the definition of ‘indie’ since she’s now leading an outsourced animation team lol), but for now we can watch all of her wonderfully disconcerting lead-in series Secrets and Lies in a Town of Sinners! She has a really distinctive style, leaning way into extreme exaggeration and the 'boiling’ lines effect (where every drawing is drawn twice and rapidly alternates between frames). Totally slept on her last time, I want to give her a proper showing this time around!

Vewn (Victoria Vincent) made a little short about a monkey since last we saw her - but I also want to show a few more of her previous stuff we didn’t cover last time! She remains one of my favourite web animators, with a brilliant ability to ratchet up a sense of alienation and tension and an amazing way of using distorted perspective.

the newcomers…

and meanwhile I got familiar with some more animators…

Worthikids is one of the people who’s really flying with the possibilities of Blender grease pencil to combine 2D and 3D animation - and he’s just a plain good character animator, especially for expressions, with a great sense of humour. We’ll check out his Bigtop Burger series about a travelling food truck run by clowns, and his recent short Wire in which a different group of clowns battle vampires. Clowns seem to be a thing for him.

Gif source: @shimblop-moved

Joel Guerra also recently made big waves with his ENA series, with a wonderful aesthetic taking after early CGI and clipart as a context for surrealism. Most of these videos feature ENA wandering around talking to various characters while we soak in the ~vibes~…

Howard Wimshurst is the host of a discord server for indie animators I’ve taken to hanging out in, but of course he caught my eye in the first place for tremendously impressive full-figure animation, along with really strong storyboarding and textured brushwork like Encounter.

Toniko Pantoja meanwhile is a CalArts grad whose educational videos are some of the most useful out there (if sometimes a little meandering!) He mostly works in the mainstream industry but occasionally releases very cool original projects like this!

Studio Bulldog are a tiny four-person indie anime studio, who appeared on the scene recently with some cute short films and very informative videos on the anime production process in English.

Gif source: @bionicie

DawnOfNSSD, aka @bionicie on here, is out pioneering the genre of Bionicle stop motion erotic/fight animation. Their work is fascinating, and does some very clever little technical things (most stop motion animators have little interest in martial arts, sadly, since there’s clearly a lot of potential!) - and honestly like, the absolute vision of it! Titty bionicles!

Gif source: @arirna

Shingo Tamagawa is an skillful key animator with credits ranging from Gundam Thunderbolt to 3-Gatsu no Lion, but he made an enormous splash in animation circles last year with his beautifully coloured short film Puparia. This film exhibited a level of drawing precision that would be hard to match for big studios with entire cleanup departments, and incredibly beautiful, moody atmosphere shaped by precise, manga-like drawings and a richly saturated colour palette. No wonder it made waves!

The old school…

We covered most of the main hits last time, but we gotta include at least some NG stuff right? Last time we covered the main ones - Bitey of Brackenwood, Animator vs Animation, Xiao Xiao, There She Is! - but we haven’t quite covered all the good stuff yet…

Madness Combat by Krinkels is technically not in the 'stick figure fight’ subgenre, since the guys are like little raymans or something, but really who cares about the difference hehe. It’s a sprawling series on one very straightforward premise: a little guy kills a lot of other little guys, then probably dies. Well, these things became wildly popular because Krinkels had a decent sense of fight choreography and timing out the fights to the beat, which made his stuff stand out among all the stick videos. It’s all about rhythm! I’m not gonna show too much of this because they are basically 10+ years of the same video getting gradually more elaborate, but we gotta give it a nod!

Nathalie Lawhead is best known as a game developer, but early on she was part of the Flash scene, with projects like the Rotfront Sovietoblaster music video and Alien Invasion. It’s so wonderfully energetic and such a perfect encapsulation of its era that I gotta show some.

The Older School

Now, this playlist might not go very far. I haven’t timed it out, I’m running late as it is. If it turns out these are so short we’re done in a couple hours, I have a plan B: we’ll check out some of MTV’s Liquid Television block, which (alongside other similar festival-type presentations like Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation) is where you’d take your work before there was a Newgrounds: a collection of original, boundary-pushing short films. For me, it’s most notable for incubating Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux, which started this whole thing! You might say that Animation Night owes its existence to Liquid Television. Unfortunately, it remains available only in VHSrip form, but hey, that just adds to the flavour.

Animation Night 48 will start very soon indeed, like more or less right now at twitch.tv/canmom. Hope to see you there for an Animation Night the way we used to do it! There’s so much different stuff I’m sure I’ll find something you’re into :D

This Animation Night was a blast, and we did indeed finish early - which meant I had room for a few audience requests…

Animutations were a certain genre of limited-animation comedy short popularised by Neil Cicierega. They inspired many imitators, most popularly the Colin Mochrie trilogy by Andrew Kepple, chronicling the fierce battle between the Scottish actor and Jesus, as narrated through misheard song lyrics…

Flashback by Danny Gomez is a remarkable short of kaleidoscopic trance visuals aiming to evoke the feeling of an acid trip (narratively, an experimental shamanic drumming based therapeutic technique). The backgrounds are some gorgeously intricate paintings, also by Gomez… but I have no idea where I can find this guy’s web presence!

Instead of Liquid Television, I ended up showing some stuff from Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation - which is mostly not all that great, but has a few standout entries…

Don Hertzfeldt is somewhat infamous for the absurdity of suing people for plagiarising stick figures, but his short Rejected - featuring a series of non-sequitur shorts with the framing device of an animator trying to play them as ad commissions - made such a big splash that it was actually nominated for an Oscar. Viewed today it is kind of an artefact of that era of 'lolrandom’ humour but it’s still pretty memorable!

The Lloyd’s Lunchbox series by Gregory Ecklund is a series of body horror themed shorts that could be considered the American answer to guro, in which a man named Lloyd self-harms in various ways. I appreciate them because they are skilfully animated to really convey the gross physicality of having a body in ways few other things do, and because Ecklund - unlike many contributors to Spike and Mike! - really knows how to set up a joke and play with expectations. But I’m not kidding about this being body horror central! I’ve seen it make some pretty jaded people wince with its sadistic creativity…

1300cc dir. Eoin Clarke is a short film funded by Channel 4 in the UK, about the encounter between two neighbours - a burly biker and a little old lady. It has a remarkable sequence in the middle where the biker takes pills he really shouldn’t and goes on an extended surreal trip, though the punchline is kinda mean-spirited! Sadly I’ve not been able to find it in any higher quality, which is a shame because the drawings are pretty rich with details and the cel animation is cutting few corners.

I also watched Jonni Phillips’s wonderful film Final Exit of the Disciples of Ascensia recently, which tells the story of a girl who flees her life to join a UFO cult. I don’t think I gushed enough about her upthread so let me fix that now >:3

Jonni’s animation always gives this delicious combination of really strong awkward, naturalistic comedy and, at the same time, an incredible atmosphere of alienation and melancholy. Ascensia is especially experimental with technique, with all sorts of neat shit with paper cutouts and physical stop motion animation, and a lot of really cool guest animation (including an appearance of vewn and several others I gotta check out). Cannot wait for Barber Westchester to drop.

Anyway… definitely haven’t exhausted the well of independent animation here, so I’m sure we’ll be here again! @iggnsthe recently told me about PiroPito/Nana825763 who does some delightful sort of puppet/stop motion cute horror aesthetic which I’m definitely going to try and find a suitable theme to show at some point hehe. If there’s someone doing cool shit pls tell me about them hehe


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