Recently I became curious to find out what is the most viewed original piece of animation on YouTube. The answer turned out to be a bit of a surprise: Charlie the Unicorn. The original posting of the short has nearly 23 million views, while another copy of the short is approaching 9 million views. There are dozens of other copies of the film floating around YouTube, so it’s safe to say that Charlie the Unicorn now has well over 32 million views on the video sharing site.
Anyway the reason I mention all this is that the creator, Jason Steele, recently unveiled the long-awaited followup Charlie the Unicorn 2 (posted below). In less than a month, the video has garnered nearly 1.5 million views on YouTube. Jason also has a website Filmcow.com that offers hi-res QuickTimes of the shorts and an online store selling Charlie merchandise.
The two Charlie the Unicorn shorts are firmly rooted in the contemporary strain of nonsensical non sequitur humor. Sometimes this type of humor works (Pen Ward’s Adventure Time) and most of the time it doesn’t (Family Guy, almost everything on “Adult Swim”). In the case of Charlie the Unicorn, I have to concede that the humor works nicely, and the clumsy animation only heightens the effect. I wasn’t expecting this short to be the most viewed original animation on YouTube, but looking at the success of Charlie can perhaps offer some clues about the type of cartoons that resonate with today’s online animation audiences.