Welcome!

Adobe Flex Authors: Matthew Lobas, PR.com Newswire, Shelly Palmer, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Adobe Flex, ColdFusion

Adobe Flex: Article

Macromedia Flash: Cartoons By the People For the People

How Flash is Democratizing Animation

When Disney closed the doors of its Orlando, Florida animation studio in January 2004, many saw it as the death knell for traditional hand-drawn animation. Of the 18 big-studio animated films to be released this year, only a handful will be done in 2D animation and of those, only a couple will even make it into theaters, according to KeyFrame-Online.com. In 2001, the first Oscar for an animated film was given out and the 3D animated Shrek took the prize.

Since then, only one 2D animated movie snagged the award, 2002's Spirited Away. But like its hand-drawn predecessor, 3D animation is still expensive and requires copious amounts of computer power and animators. While big-budget 3D animated movies are the most visible step in animation's evolution, they only make up a small portion of the cartoons out there. Some of the most innovative, interesting animation is being created using Flash.

A Brief Flash History
The ubiquity of Flash can hardly be overstated - as anyone who has set up a new computer can attest, you can't go three steps on the Web without being prompted to download the Flash Player for your virgin browser in order to properly view the Flash objects embedded in the Web.

The object in question might be as tiny as a button or an ad embedded in a normal HTML page, or as elaborate as an animation or entire site constructed wholly in Flash. Once you've installed the player, though, the Flash becomes a seamless part of the Web, and you never think about it again.

But if you were to wave a magic wand that removed all the Flash objects from the Web, cyberspace would suddenly look like Swiss cheese. Great swaths of it would go black. There are one million developers using Flash now - a number that doesn't include the thousands of amateur animators, ranging in age from 15 to 50 years old, who are creating their own cartoons in bedrooms or small studios across the country.

Flash made its first appearance in 1995 as FutureSplash and was used to deliver animated content over narrowband Internet connections. Macromedia bought the company; since then, it's evolved into a complete Web application development program that can be used to do everything from creating animated shorts and interfaces for databases to creating interactive websites with MP3 audio and full motion video. There are over 515 million computers using Macromedia's Flash player, according to the company's Web site.

Flash Animation: Starting to Hit the Big Time
Long a staple of college kids and bored cubical dwellers who pass links to Flash sites around in e-mails, Flash animation is starting to hit the big time. Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, the creators of JibJab.com, were thrust into the national spotlight just before the 2004 presidential election with their Flash short "This Land," a parody of the song "This Land is Your Land" featuring animated versions of George W. Bush and John Kerry. There was a deluge of media coverage, with the political toon getting airtime on all the cable news networks and other big media outlets, as well as making its way to e-mail inboxes and message boards across the Web. After the election, the Spiridellis brothers followed up on their success with "Second Term," a celebration of Bush's victory sung to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain."

But the JibJab toons are only the tip of the growing cartoon iceberg that Web surfers are careening into on a daily basis. Legions of amateur auteurs are using Flash to drive the animation revolution. Like a tiny digital snowflake, each Flash short is unique. Unrestrained by the bureaucracies and focus groups of big-budget studios, the political hang-ups of network censors and the shortsightedness of fickle advertisers, Flash artists are free to produce a dazzling array of short films and series as diverse as the individual minds they sprang from.

Consider Salad Fingers, a sickly-green human-vegetable hybrid with a British accent who loves to fondle rusty spoons and mutilate himself. Or Nylon Futura, a spunky redhead whose good looks halt an alien invasion. And then there's Bitey of Brackenwood, a mischievous goat-man who duels with a witch after breaking one of her flowerpots. The inhabitants of Flash Nation are a strange lot, but it's a story as old as the Web - put the means of production in the hands of the people, and they will make weird, weird stuff.

For their creators, traditional, hand-drawn animation is a memory, a cumbersome, expensive dinosaur that can't keep up with ever-changing technology. Flash is the future, they say, an emerging medium that, already enjoying a ubiquitous presence on the Web, is poised to take over TV, DVD and everything else.

Cartoons for the People
Tom Fulp, creator of Newgrounds.com, a popular Flash animation repository on the Web, said his site has 700,000 registered users, many of whom are frequently submitting original Flash content. Newgrounds receives more than 200 submissions a day. The shorts on Newgrounds usually run about three minutes in length and cover the gamut of genres, from "Comissioner Kong," a slickly animated neo-noir that casts a monkey as a police commissioner under siege, to the ridiculously offensive "Birds 'n Bees," a take-off of '50s sex-ed films that extols the joys of abortion. Users vote on each short; a high score will keep the file on the site, while a low user score will send the piece to the trash. Previously, the only reward for having a high user score was visibility on Newgrounds; now, Fulp said he's starting a monthly selection of the top five submissions, with each winner receiving $250, a T-shirt and an award certificate.

"I have always believed in Flash as an emerging medium," Fulp said in an e-mail interview. "Every year the submissions to Newgrounds continue to improve."

Games produced using Flash are also popular on Newgrounds. Fulp's game "Alien Hominid" has been played more than a million times since appearing on the site in 2002. Last year, it was redeveloped and made the crossover to the PlayStation 2 console.

Newgrounds started as a fanzine for the NeoGeo video game system in the early '90s. It wasn't until 1998 that the current form of Newgrounds hit the Web, just in time for the dot-com boom. Investors were dumping loads of money into sites like IceBox.com and others that were offering original Flash content.

"During the boom, a lot of big companies were investing millions in Web entertainment and not making a dime in return," Fulp said. "I know of several sites that spent over $20 million and never saw anywhere near the traffic of Newgrounds, which was being run from my college apartment."

One Flash series that got its start on Newgrounds is "College University." Created by Mike and Andy Parker, "CU" chronicles the adventures of Mike and Parks, two freshmen at the academically questionable College University, a place where monkeys teach monkey physics and Optimus Prime (of "Transformers" fame) is head of security. The series is like a cross between "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy," with heavy doses of smart-ass pop culture humor and non-sequiturs.

"Andy came up with the idea to base it in a college setting, and with obvious influences from 'The Simpsons,' it grew from there. We originally wrote a script for a 30-minute TV pilot, but when I discovered Flash, we split the script up, and I started adapting it for the Web," said Mike Parker in an e-mail interview.

More Stories By Larry Clow

Larry Clow is staff writer for The Wire (www.wirenh.com), a free weekly newspaper distributed at more than 200 locations up and down the New Hampshire seacoast, from Salisbury to Rochester, from Exeter to Durham and Kittery, and all around Portsmouth and everywhere between.

Comments (2)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.