Well, it’s Thursday. As preordained by the Twitter gods and goddesses, we are obligated to look back into the past, into the ancient times of the Internet, to rekindle our romances with memes, videos and personalities of the past, if for nothing else but to wonder what was going on in our brains at that particular moment in time.
This week: Animated Short Videos.
Evan DeSimone – “Rejected Cartoons”
Don Hertzfeldt’s “Rejected” was probably the first viral video I ever saw. That might not be completely accurate, there might have been others before it, but this was the first that actually made me lol. I mean I actually laughed out loud. “Rejected” is absurd and unexpected in a way that we’ve becoming used to now that there’s a new viral video every other day, but at the time it was unique. It was the thing that convinced of the internet’s power to entertain people in a way that was new and exciting. In fact, it’s probably the reason that I’m sitting here typing these words into the glowing rectangle that is my computer screen, and it’s also the reason that you are currently sucking in those words through your eye-holes.
Animator Don Hertzfeldt created “Rejected” as a way of responding to requests he had received to commercial animation work for various brands. Hertzfeldt, whose student film had won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, had joked that if he accepted a brand deal it would only be to turn in the worst work of his career and see if he could still make off with the money. That joke would ultimately grow into the premise for “Rejected” a series of cartoon ads ostensibly created by an artist who was slowly losing his grip on reality. The scenes start off absurd a man with a giant spoon, a talking banana, and then grown gradually darker and more unhinged mirroring the artists supposed mental state.
One reason “Rejected” was so much fun was that we weren’t yet accustomed to the viral video cycle. Many people took the ten minute cartoon at face value, believing it to be the rejected ad work of a deranged cartoonist. Our bullshit detection skills are much higher today than they were in the days of internet 1.0. There was no YouTube yet and therefore no thousands of commenters to type “FAKE!!!!” below the video. In fact I’m pretty sure you had to actually download it…from an EMAIL! Everything about “Rejected” is familiar now. The crude animation and the cutesy scenes pivoting into unexpected are both viral video staples. Everything from Salad Fingers to TomSka’s hugely popular “ASDF Movie” series owes a debt to “Rejected.”
Jeff Klima – “Amazing Horse”
With the immortal line, “Look at my horse, my horse is amazing,” I was hooked. I knew that I was bearing witness to something that would turn my grey world to a neon cavalcade of debauchery and wonderment. It was something akin to when Ewan McGregor’s character discovers, concurrently, Absinthe and the Moulin Rouge.
Spawned from a flash animation site run by British animator Jonathan “Jonti” Picking called Weebl’s Stuff, Amazing Horse transcended the medium to become the most irresistible and nonsensical ode to horse-licking currently available. And then someone had the brilliant idea to loop it for 10 hours straight and upload it to YouTube. Heroin isn’t this addicting … and doesn’t require you to steal quite so much stuff to feed your addiction (strange how that works out).
There have been several versions released in different genres including techno and a cool jazz rendition, but nothing, for me at least, is as soothing as this original version. I can’t quite do all 10 hours in a row (yet!), but I can sure as hell waste a whole lot of a work day with it.
Logan Rapp – “End of the World”
There’s nothing quite like theorizing about the way we’re all going to die. My youthful self, even bitter back then (well, you would be too, what with all the NIN you listened to and seasons of 24 you mainlined), found this gleefully anarchistic, hastily put together ninety second animation breaking down nuclear holocaust hilarious. There’s something about personifying entire countries as they battle each other that also appeals to that political junkie within me.
Posted on Albino Blacksheep, a site I am shocked still exists and feel oddly uncomfortable returning to, the video spread like wildfire, reposted by just about every site that has any kind of Flash video offering. (Even saying Ebaum’s World starts up a wave of anxiety about that girl in my French class who totally smiled at me that one time.) As all viral things do, it enters the cultural consciousness, ping-pongs around, and when the D&D nerds try to ingratiate themselves to the Internet nerds by going “Hookay,” that’s right around when the magic fades.
But every once in awhile, maybe once every couple of years, I get a twinge, as though I could hear that “Hookay” in the distance, and I have to know, once and for all, what that guy actually says after “that’s a sweet Earth…”
Evidence is still inconclusive.