The YouTube channel Machinima, which was the subject of a recent LA Weekly piece about exploitative business practices, is continuing to grow its animation programming under its Happy Hour label. This month they debuted two new original Flash series—Space Adventure Legend Quest, created by Chris Voigt, (aka Sexual Lobster), and Action Faction, created by Jon Etheridge and Tony Schnur.
It becomes harder and harder everyday to distinguish between shows that are made for cable programming blocks like “Adult Swim” and animation produced for the Internet. The advent of Flash, combined with diminishing budgets, has been the industry’s great equalizer. What was formerly considered “amateur” animation on Newgrounds has now been elevated to mainstream status as it is commissioned by Google-funded YouTube channels like Machinima and mainstream networks like Fox, which is ramping up its Animation Domination High-Def programming.
Production values are no longer an imperative; the number of views is what matters. If more people watch a piece of animation produced for $5,000 than a piece of animation produced for $500,000, then there is no reason to spend the larger sum of money. It is this new and emerging paradigm that threatens the entire TV animation industry. Shows no longer need bloated crews of dozens when a couple of guys working from home and subsisting on Ramen and Doritos can attract a bigger following online.
This new approach to animation doesn’t break the rules because it knows no rules. It is created as everything else is on the Internet: fast, cheap, and without reverence for the past. It would be a pointless exercise to react to it or make any judgement about its quality. Let us simply acknowledge that the cartoons fulfill an economic need and satisfy an audience. They aren’t designed to stimulate the senses or challenge viewers, but only to sate the Internet’s insatiable appetite for fresh content. By that standard, they do their job well.