Before I became an otaku, and before the internet became the internet, flash animation was the thing to obsess over. I’m not talking about the primordial days where AOL needed keywords to find websites or when buddylists were a thing; I’m talking about the early to mid-2000’s. Those were the formative years of my internet experience, back when funnyjunk.com and newgrounds.com and narutofan.com were all still relevant to me an my interests. My brother and I would share some our favorites back and forth, finding some “mainstream” and not-so-popular ones to laugh about.
Of course, that may just be yearning for the halcyonic days talking. Looking back on some of my favorites now, it’s a wonder why I thought they were so revolutionary to begin with. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that among the many mediocre toons, there was that rare gem that has embedded itself into my memory. And as I went through a relatively large life-changing event in the past week, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back for nostalgia’s sake and drudge up some circa 2005 memories with some flash gems that stand the test of time.
Strong Bad is some formative sh*t, yo. HomeStarRunner.com was a website that really had some steam behind it back in the day. I distinctly remember that Time Magazine wrote a small snippet about the site at one point.
Legitimate news attention aside, it was one of the funniest things I found when I was younger and the Strong Bad Emails were by far the best things on the site. For the uninitiated, the resident curmudgeon Strong Bad would sit down and answer fan emails, often not taking anything seriously and getting into hijinks. They were a serious contributor on my own sense of humor: sarcastic, ridiculous, and more than a little stupid. There was even one about japanese cartoons, so I like to think that it was a bit prophetic for my interests later in life. Strong Bad emails may not be the funniest thing on the internet anymore, but if nothing else, it looks amazing and was hilarious for its time. Strong Bad Emails was and still is one of my favorite things about 2005 internet.
Plus, you gotta love that blue hair.
Madness! is now a staple of the newgrounds experience. The original wasn’t nearly as intense or as serious as the sequels, but it was the first and that counts for something.
The whole thing is just mindless violence between stick people things, with Jesus thrown in for good measure. And to a 14 year old boy, it was pretty awesome. It was as if nothing like it had ever been thought of before. I was also still doing martial arts the first time I watched this, and so I thought that this was a great example of cartoon fight choreography. Both opinions have changed; nothing about this first Madness! breaks down any walls. I have to be honest though, throwing in Jesus was pretty funny to me. Regardless, it’s an enjoyable toon and worth the watch, even if animated non-bloody brawling isn’t your thing.
Yes, I’m including another mindless fight animation. But instead of vague blobs with heads fighting, we get the likes of Batman, Optimus Prime, and Indiana Jones all fighting each other. This one really is a doozy because it’s a pretty dated piece and it has become a piece of history itself. It’s pretty hard to not enjoy this one when Gandalf the White and the Monty Python’s The Holy Grail’s Black Knight are mentioned within the same limerick. The Ultimate Showdown really is a time capsule of what the teeny-bopper scene was like in 2005. Case in point: Aaron Carter makes an appearance beating Shaquille O’Neal up. I can’t imagine many people reading this will both know the reference and cringe in shame because of it. It’s a super fun toon that lampoons a lot of the pop culture of the time, something that’s still funny even in 2012.
It wasn’t until I started writing this Top 5 that I found out that the man behind the music on this one was Lemon Demon a.k.a. Neil Cicierega, the mastermind behind the Potter Puppet Pals. So if you’re a fan of PPP, it may be worth watching The Ultimate Showdown. The winner may surprise you.
SamBakZa was a group of three South Korean artists who came together to post their work on a single site. One of them was amalloc and the creator of the short There She Is!! Set to Korean music and beautifully animated, it’s not hard to see why I loved this one.
The series tells a really sweet story of Nabi the Cat and Toki the Bunny getting together despite the many obstacles in their way. Unlike Strong Bad Emails and Madness, it’s still enjoyable and stands the test of time well. The coolest thing about this project was that amalloc didn’t have the time nor the staff to finish the story initially, but was able to pick up sponsors from the amazing amount of attention There She Is!! was getting. It’s become a bit of a phenomenon in the worlds of K-pop and Asian fashion, but there are still people who haven’t seen it. If you’re one of them, I highly recommend checking this one out, especially Cake Dance. And seriously, if you don’t squeal at any of them, something may be wrong with you. Just saying.
Some of you may be wondering why this one took the number one spot. It’s honestly hard to say. The main reason would have to be that it has became one of the most ubiquitous pieces on this list. Almost everyone I’ve talked to about this one knows the accent and the fact that Australia never knows what’s going on (stupid kangaroos). I also firmly believe this is where ragetoons got the pension for staring descriptions with “le”. And on a pettier level, it may have pandered to my perceived slight superiority about being Californian. Of course, that’s not the case anymore but End of Ze World has a following that is hard to ignore and a universalness that can’t be matched in the world of flash animation.
It’s certainly not the best looking piece out there and it’s pretty dumb. But End of Ze World was the highlight of my pre-otaku internet days which is why it snags the number one spot.
There are a lot of series and toons that I didn’t include here. Xombie, O.N.E., and the FF Tribute Chocobo Remix to name a few. It was hard to pick, but there’re my top 5 early internet flash animations. Hope you liked them and if not, let me know what your favorite flash toon back in the day was.