YouTube’s Most Viewed Original Animation

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 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.

  • Well I think anyone who takes the time to make an animated film of any length should be commended. Good work Jason Steele.

    It’s too derivative for my liking but I wish him the best of luck and hope that it becomes the second (or first) most voted film on the Tube.

  • Half

    You mean, all this time, Williams Street actually had its finger on the pulse of America? OMGROFLMAOLOL. Well. Crying actually.

  • ChitChat

    Great review and really enjoyed the films, which I had never seen before. Thanks for that.

    But I have to disagree with your comment about the humor in Family Guy not working. Don’t get me wrong, the animation sucks, that goes without saying. But obviously they’re doing something right since they keep adding seasons and just upped the cocky Seth MacFarlane’s salary. What you say is your opinion, but you state it as though it’s fact. You just don’t get it…

    Strangely though, I keep wanting to read more of what you say.

  • LK

    Good god, that was unfunny. I wonder how long before Adult Swim gets hold of it.

  • With this much attention I wouldn’t be surprised if Adult Swim begs the creator for a series of this.

  • Well, I like them! Hopefully the creator will keep all the episodes online, make some sort of a subscription so he can make some money and not sell them to Adult Swim, which is what I foresee happening.

  • Chappell

    Charlie the Unicorn? Reminds me of the other YouTube series, Unicorn Planet, which is slightly similar. Unicorns, the next big thing in 2k8?

  • kborcz

    I enjoy Family Guy

  • gsm

    The unsettling thing is that when I was over at our church’s college youth group, our campus pastor was showing the original “Charlie the Unicorn” to his two kids. They were young enough that I felt the jokes about having an organ stolen (spoiler!) were inappropriate for their age. I suggested “Adventure Time”, and the kids watched it for a while, but it didn’t seem to hold their attention. I think at that point I realized that the cheesy Saturday-morning tropes of A.T. were somehow unappealing, while the faux-mature tone of grumpy Charlie and the annoying companions were more clearly subversive, and therefore more interesting.

  • FP

    23 million views? That’s $474,825.19 theoretical dollars!

  • Top television shows get 23 million viewers in one night. It takes over two years to garner that number online.

  • way to rain on the unicorn parade.

  • Tommy

    wow this even more of an unfunny ATHF ripoff than the first one. I’m sure this is mostly popular with 14-year-olds who haven’t seen all the things Charlie the Unicorn is copying and I guess people who have willfully and rightly avoided them, like amid but I’ve got to admit, unicorns and bananas and bursting into song are pretty daring and ironic maybe I would have enjoyed this cartoon more if there were pirates/ninjas/monkeys, an 80s-style montage, and a cameo by skeletor.

  • red pill junkie

    ….I’m the Charlie the Unicorn!!!! :-(

  • erik

    you like charlie the unicorn but family guy a no go? i think i lost respect for your taste in comedy.

  • Mudron

    It also doesn’t help that Adventure Time is obviously directed at kids (the forced utterances of “Dude!” and “To the max!” sound as if they cooked up by someone who hasn’t watched a cartoon since the Ninja Turtles were big 15 years ago), whereas the Charlie the Unicorn stuff was cooked up by an adult just looking for a laugh, regardless of who his audience may be.

    The first rule of truly entertaining most kids? Don’t give them something made for kids.

  • set up, set up, set up, set up, set up…CURVEBALL. It was good storytelling. I hope this guy makes a killing off this, cuz it’s all online profits from people who CHOOSE to watch. Keep em coming Jason.

  • The thing about these is that the more you watch them the funnier they become. Also, they are very very popular with people in their mid 20s to early 30s. So far folks over about the age of 40 don’t seem to get it. This is based on the 150-200 people I know who have seen it. It is a similiar humor to ATHF, but the timing is better and the characters are more personable. Plus, has anyone besides me noticed the huge surge in unicorn popularity recently?

  • joecab

    Didn’t like it. If I have to watch three unicorns doing weird stuff, I prefer Planet Unicorn:

    And yes animation stinks on Family Guy and it is nothing but a collection of pop culture references most of the time, but it’s still hilarious.

  • I have, Katy!

  • Esn

    “Charlie the Unicorn” was first submitted to Newgrounds, and this version has much better image quality than what is posted on Youtube:

    I’m not sure why everyone wants to link to Youtube all the time.

    “The Gagaman says:
    With this much attention I wouldn’t be surprised if Adult Swim begs the creator for a series of this.”

    They did, he wrote a blog entry about it:

    He refused, because he eventually realized that he was getting a bad deal and that he had enough fans to not have to deal with their crap.

    Jason Steele is also making a feature film called “Spatula Madness”.

    Personally, I’d say that I liked the original “Charlie the Unicorn”, but the second one was just too much of the same thing for me.

  • Tom

    Adult Swim has stuck by the Venture Bros. and therefore can never be faulted for some of the other stuff they have; even though I like ATHF, Sealab, and Metalocalypse.

    That dialog was chosen because AT is a show for children of the 80’s to watch with their kids. It’s nostalgia not a vein attempt at “connecting”.
    They’re going for a piece of the Spongebob pie.

  • As a high schooler, it’s the videos like this (and Liam Sullivan’s “Kelly” music videos) that are hits with my age group. It’s catchy. It’s the kind of stuff we’ll randomly quote and sing along to and have a grand ol’ time with.
    The glory of YouTube is that is gives people like Jason and Liam the chance to show their stuff freely. (More power to them… bravo!)
    And yes, I really enjoy the Charlie shorts. I kind of though the first one was better with the timing, though. But still, catchy song!

  • Pedro Nakama

    Better than Roadside Romeo!

  • Crinkles

    Ugh….not funny….

  • death

    Maybe we should just assoiate it as the furthest thing from animantion-give it it’s entirely own category in the oscars and other awards…so then all the shows like South Park, who’s creators hate animation, can compete with each other and not with ‘The Illusion of Life’ type of film/tv/online work….
    Or we could just let “good animation” die since there will never be a single film that lasts as long as a civilization does seeing as demographics are changing every year almost-utterly extiriminating the previouous ones…we may as well also kill the “kids” demographic seeing as we’re starting to realize that “innocence” and “maturity” are only philosophies that don’t work anymore for our future and present generations!

  • I like to draw

    I laughed when I saw the original like 2 years ago?? but this was totally lame and unfunny … Im soo over bad animation it isn’t even funny..


    I have watched the entire short, but it personally does not do a lot for me [though the voice talents are pretty effective]…….just goes to show, NOBODY really knows what the public likes until it is revealed…..

    ……having such diverse tastes makes us human, though, and I’d sooner have lots of different styles [even if I don’t care for many of them] than have everything look similar.

  • Your friendly neighborhood Lurker

    Well, while I agree with you that Adult Swim and Family Guy are stunningly unfunny, I do think that alot of the earliest examples of cartoon animation also fit into the catagory of “contemporary strain of nonsensical non sequitur humor” Of course non of these are going to be as fondly remembered as Bosco or Oswald. I hope. :|

  • i couldn’t watch more than 20 seconds of it. uhh i like actual animation and funny well drawn cartoon drawings. where is the visual payoff? there is none. plus amateur hour random humor. I think people like this stuff because it resembles the lame humor they are capable of producing amongst themselves. its everyone can do it generation thanks to technology and lowered standards and youtube. maybe one day the internet will explode and die and people will have to learn how to live their lives again.

  • Few things prompt me to “laugh out loud,” but the first Charlie video is one of them. I’m not surprised it has garnered millions of views, either. The payoff is brilliant and the silliness never tires even after repeated viewings.

    But the sequel is a lame retread of the first and not very funny.

  • Internet geek

    I guess this just proves that someone’s found a way to cheat YouTube statistics.

    Maybe one of the botnets has been hijacked and made to download these shows over and over again.

    Because I just cannot believe that so many real human beings have sat through this. My faith in humanity remains strong.

  • rachel

    I agree with the others who prefer Planet Unicorn to Charlie the Unicorn . . . the two unicorns who always come around to bother Charlie are just too annoying for me. I personally think the dialog between the unicorns in Planet Unicorn is funnier, and the humor is just as wacky and ridiculous–plus how can you NOT like a show whose theme song starts off with “a gay boy wished for a planet full of unicorns.”

  • I think Jason Steele has achieved a memorable character which is what most animators look to do. Even massive production companies fail sometimes to achieve a character that people remember.

    Good work ;]

  • Animation has come a long way and cartoons have been the foremost recipient of technology to entertain kids and also for people kids at heart.