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Simple animation in Flash MX; a square moving across the screen in a motion tween, one of the basic functions of Flash. Onion skinning is used to show the apparent motion of the square.

A Flash animation or Flash cartoon is an animated film which is created using Adobe Flash or similar animation software and often distributed in the .swf file format. The term Flash animation not only refers to the file format but to a certain kind of movement and visual style which, in many circles, is seen as simplistic or unpolished. However, with dozens of Flash animated television series, countless more Flash animated television commercials, and award-winning online shorts in circulation, Flash animation is enjoying a renaissance.

In the late 1990s, when for most Internet users, bandwidth was still at 56 kbit/s, many Flash animation artists employed limited animation or cutout animation when creating projects intended for web distribution. This allowed artists to release shorts and interactive experiences well under 1 MB, which could stream both audio and high-end animation. One example is the first episode of The Goddamn George Liquor Program released in 1999, rendered at only 628kB.

Some hallmarks of poorly-produced Flash animation are jerky natural movements (seen in walk-cycles and gestures), auto-tweened character movements, lip-sync without interpolation, and abrupt changes from front to profile view. Although Flash is able to integrate bitmaps and other raster-based art, as well as video, most Flash films are created using only vector-based drawings which often result in a somewhat clean graphic appearance.

Flash animations are typically distributed by way of the World Wide Web, in which case they are often referred to as Internet cartoons, online cartoons, or webtoons. Web Flash animations may be interactive and are often created in a series. A Flash animation is distinguished from a Webcomic, which is a comic strip distributed via the Web, rather than an animated cartoon.

Contents

History

Developed by Macromedia, Flash (along with Macromedia's other programs) was acquired by software giant Adobe in April 2005.

The first prominent use of the Flash animation format was by Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. On October 15, 1997, he launched The Goddamn George Liquor Program, the first cartoon series produced specifically for the Internet[1]. The series starred George Liquor (a fictional character rumored to have ended Kricfalusi's employment on Ren & Stimpy) and his dim-witted nephew Jimmy The Hapless Idiot Boy. Later, Kricfalusi produced more animated projects with Flash including several online shorts for Icebox.com, television commercials, and a music video. Soon after that, web cartoons began appearing on the internet with much more regularity.

On February 26, 1999,[2] in a major milestone for Flash animation, the popular web series WhirlGirl became the first regularly scheduled Flash animated web series when it premiered on the premium cable channel Showtime in an unprecedented telecast and simultaneous release on the Showtime website.[3] Created by David B. Williams and produced by Visionary Media, the studio he founded, WhirlGirl follows the adventures of a young superheroine fighting for freedom in a future ruled by an all-powerful "mediatech empire." The series originally launched in the Spring of 1997 as a web comic with limited animation and sound.[4] After gaining online syndication partners including Lycos.com and WebTV, the series first adopted Flash animation in July 1998.[5] Following her Showtime debut, the titular heroine appeared in over 50 Flash webisodes on the Showtime website[6] and starred in a million dollar multimedia Showtime marketing campaign.[7]

About the same time, Joe Cartoon launched the interactive animation "Frog in a Blender" to become one of the very first true "Viral Hits" on the internet gaining more than 90 million views since its release in 1999.

The Von Ghouls went live in November 1999, featuring the first music group with cartoon episodes online including original songs, in the vein of Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s. A number of popular portal sites featured Flash animation during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, including Icebox, MondoMedia, CampChaos, MediaTrip, Bogbeast and AtomFilms. Stan Lee of Marvel Comics launched an animated comics site.

The Internet also saw the proliferation of many adult-only Flash cartoon sites. Some of the shows from that period made the transition to traditional media, including Queer Duck, Gary the Rat, Happy Tree Friends, and the politically-minded JibJab shorts. Occasionally, the trend has been reversed: after being canceled from both ABC and Fox, Atom Films created net-only episodes of The Critic in 2000-2001. In another instance, Flash almost made the transition to the big screen. In 2001, production began on what would have been the first Flash-animated feature film, the ill-fated "Lil' Pimp," which also began life as an Internet series. As potentially controversial as its subject matter was, it had a relatively large budget, a number of well-known actors (including William Shatner, Bernie Mac, and Lil Kim), a full crew, and a running time of nearly 80 minutes. Although Sony Pictures decided not to release the film, it was eventually released on DVD by Lion's Gate.

Several recording companies experimented with releasing animated music videos to promote their artists' releases online, including Madonna, the Beastie Boys and Tenacious D, however none became the hit that allowed for the expansion of Flash animated music videos. Adam Sandler and Tim Burton among others, released original Internet-only animated works, but were not able to devise successful financial models and the trend dissipated, largely as a result of a lack of viable micropayment systems.

Several popular online series are currently produced in Flash, such as the Emmy Award-winning Off-Mikes, produced by ESPN and Animax Entertainment; Gotham Girls, produced by Warner Brothers; Crime Time, produced by Future Thought Productions and HomestarRunner produced by Mike and Matt Chapman.

Many animated television series are produced using Macromedia Flash, inspired by both the comparatively low cost of production and the unique style that can be achieved with the software, including Metalocalypse, Being Ian, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Kappa Mikey, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, Happy Tree Friends, Odd Job Jack, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, the BBC Three show Monkey Dust, the Channel Four show Modern Toss, Yin Yang Yo, Aaagh! It's the Mr. Hell Show, Cinemax's Eli's Dirty Jokes, Queer Duck from Showtime, and Shorties Watching Shorties on Comedy Central.

Other television series, such as Home Movies and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, both broadcast on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block, have switched to Flash from other animation technology.

Many animation film festivals have responded to the popularity of Flash animation by adding separate categories in competition for "web cartoons" or "Internet cartoons." Additionally, several exclusively web-based Flash competitions have been established. It is speculated that only the category "made for Internet" will survive, as competitions at animation film festivals are typically arranged in categories defined by film length and distribution channel, rather than by animation techniques or tools used to create the films.

Timeline - First flash projects on television

Year Project Notes
1999 WhirlGirl - Showtime Premiere When the first regularly scheduled Flash animated series, WhirlGirl, made its Showtime premiere, the premium cable network marked the occasion with an unprecedented telecast that ran simultaneously with the release of the episode on the company's website.[3]
2000 The Rosie O'Donnell Show - Opening Titles For the 2000 and 2001 seasons, the show opens were created by Bullseye Art, which has spun off into a company called Magic Butter. These titles were nominated for a daytime Emmy for 'Main Title Design.'
2000 Breakup Girl This aired on the Oxygen Network in March 2000 as part of the "X-Chromosome" block a sort of female Liquid Television overseen by Kit Laybourne and Machi Tantillo.
2001 Ollie's Under The Bed Adventures This was a half-hour special on Teletoon in March, which eventually spawned the series now known as Olliver's Adventures.
2001 daddy / King Pylon Two short films were made for Channel4's Mesh Scheme in the UK, Stephen Cavalier's 'daddy' and Ed Holdsworths 'King Pylon', animated in Flash and were broadcast on Channel4 in September, 2001.
2001 Quads! In November 2001, this series launched on Australia's Special Broadcasting Service network.
2001 TV Warehouse The title sequence for this BBC program was produced in Flash by Elephant Egg.
2002 Gary the Rat Originally a web cartoon, later created as a 30 min series, animated by Nick Digital Studios East for Spike TV.
2002 Meena One hundred minutes of a series of Public Service Announcements (PSA's) for the project by Future Thought Productions.
2002 The Proud Family Shorties These episodes of The Proud Family were animated at Hyperion Pictures under the Animobile label. Two episodes were animated by Animax Entertainment (The Beach and The Picnic).
2002 Home Movies The second season of this series was produced in Flash.
2002 ¡Mucha Lucha! One of the first US network Flash series.
2002 The Mr. Dink Show Canada’s first broadcast Flash production.
2002 Bobinogs On BBC Two Wales.
2002 Weebl and Bob A web cartoon that also showed on MTV2 UK.
200? Xiao Xiao #3 A stickfigure animation shown on MTV
2005 Stroker and Hoop Canceled Adult Swim series.

Timeline - Other flash animated TV series

Year Project Notes
2003 Chilly Beach Launched on CBC Television, this became one of the first Flash productions to make the move from online "webisodes" to national TV.
2004 Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends Launched on Cartoon Network.
2004 Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Launched on Cartoon Network.
2004 Atomic Betty Launched on Cartoon Network in the US.
2005 The Buzz on Maggie Canceled Disney Channel series that ran for only one season.
2005 Disney's Little Einsteins Multimedia pre-school show, used Flash for all principal character animation in conjunction with video, photo collage, Maya 3-D animation and After Effects.
2006 Yin Yang Yo The Second Disney series made entirely in Flash.
2006 Metalocalypse Series on Adult Swim.
2006 Pucca A Flash series based on a series of online shorts produced by VOOZ in South Korea. The TV series is produced by Studio B in Canada.
2006 Chaotic A Flash series based on the story of the original Chaotic Trading Card Game.
2006 Happy Tree Friends A very popular flash animated cartoon that started out as an internet cartoon around 1999 and it quickly became an internet phenomenon. In 2006, it became a full half-hour TV series on the channel G4.
2007 Total Drama Island Launched on Teletoon in Canada and on Cartoon Network in the US.
2007 Skunk Fu! A flash animation developed in Ireland that has been running since 2007.
2008 Crime Time A popular flash cartoon by Future Thought Productions that is broadcast to television in Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Ukraine.
2008 Making Fiends Launched on Nickelodeon. Based on the internet flash series.
2008 The Mr. Men Show A television show based on books by Roger Hargreaves.
2008 Eli's Dirty Jokes A short-form comedy webseries picked up by Cinemax and broadcast as interstitial content between feature films. Features an elderly accountant who tells classic jokes brought to life by Flash animation.
2009 Kud A dutch sketch show wich airs weekly on TMF's Kijk dit nou!
2010 Ugly Americans Launched by Comedy Central. Created by Augenblick Studios, the creators of Superjail.

Timeline - First Flash feature film projects (theatrically released)

Year Project Notes
2005 The Golden Blaze Directed by Bryon E. Carson, starring the voices of Blair Underwood and Michael Clarke Duncan, had a limited theatrical run making it the first flash animated film to be released on the big screen.
2005 Xuxinha e Guto Contra os Monstros do Espaço Directed by Clewerson Saremba e André Passos, produced at Labocine, in Rio de Janeiro, released in 2005 Christmas, was a big success in Brazil.
2006 Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss Former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink took 4 1/2 years to make it and he drew 112,000 frames with a Wacom tablet directly into Flash 4, in combination with Moho.
2006 That Darn Jesus An animated segment of nineteen minutes produced at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and HD 1080 (1920 px X 1080 px) for the movie Universal Remote by Future Thought Productions.
2007 Turma da Mônica: Uma Aventura no Tempo Directed by Mauricio de Sousa, produced at Labocine, in Rio de Janeiro, is biggest box office in Brazilian animation history
2008 El sol First Argentinian animated movie done integrally with Adobe Flash. Directed by Ayar Blasco.
2007 Chilly Beach: The World is Hot Enough" A spin off from the televised animated series Chilly Beach, as featured by http://www.ilaugh.com Produced by March Entertainment.
2008 Mickey the Squirrel Directed by Chaz Bottoms, a 76 minute feature animated on a Wacom Graphire Tablet with 6,500 frames.
2008 The Secret of Kells Feature-length film produced by Cartoon Saloon, co-produced in France and Belgium. Released theatrically only in those countries.
2008 Sita Sings the Blues Directed and Produced by Nina Paley. An 83 minute feature film created independently and entirely in Flash
2008 Waltz with Bashir Directed by Ari Folman, with David Polonsky as director of animation. A 89 minute feature film created using a combination of hand-drawing and flash animation based on video footage. Won a Golden Globe award, and was nominated for the best foreign language film in the Academy Awards.

Flash Animation distribution

While the creation of animation using Flash can be easier and less expensive than traditional animation techniques, the amount of time, money, and skill required to produce a project using the software depends on the chosen content and style. Internet distribution is considerably easier and less expensive than television broadcasting, and websites such as Newgrounds provide free hosting. Many Flash animations are created by individual or amateur artists, although it does require some amount of technical knowledge to create a notable work with the software. Many Flash animations first distributed on the web became popular enough to be broadcast on television, particularly on such networks as MTV and G4TV.

Flash Animation in professional studios

Flash animation production is enjoying considerable popularity in major animation studios around the world, as animators take advantage of the software's ability to organize a large number of assets (such as characters, scenes, movements, and props) for later re-use. Because Flash files are in vector file format, they can be used to transfer animation to 35 mm film without any compromise in image quality. This feature is used by several independent animators worldwide, including Phil Nibbelink, who saw his 77-minute feature film Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss released in theaters in 2006. For Disneyland's 50 Magical Years film featuring Live action Steve Martin interacting with Donald Duck, the hand drawn animation of Donald Duck was cleaned up and colored in Flash.

Creating Flash animation from other software

There are a number of other software packages available that can create output in the .swf format. Among these are Toon Boom, Toufee, KoolMoves, Express Animator and Anime Studio. These front-ends often provide additional support for creating cartoons, especially with tools more tailored to traditionally-trained animators, as well as additional rigging for characters, which can speed up character animation considerably. Additionally, there are programs available which translate 3D information into 2D vectors (NOTE: source needed for said software applications).

Footnotes

External links

Flash animation at the Open Directory Project








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