2004: The year of the animation blog

When Lili Chin and Eddie Mort posted an item on their fwak blog last September about the forthcoming upgrade of Macromedia Flash, it generated dozens of comments from other industry Flash animators about features they wanted to see included in the new version. A representative from Macromedia was copiously taking notes and the company’s software developers have been incorporating the feedback from that post into the next version of Flash. This is but one example of the effectiveness of animation blogs and the potential they have to create a positive impact on the animation community.

Last year saw not only the arrival of numerous new animation blogs, but also the roots of a community forming, which ensures the diverse voices on these blogs will be heard by a significant audience. These blogs are more than simply an attempt to collect and catalog news a la Animation World Network or ANIMATION MAGAZINE. Animation blogs are forums for rational discussion and thoughtful idea exchange, created by dedicated individuals working in and around the industry. They aren’t dragged down by the repetitive obnoxious griping that is a common feature of certain animation message boards. Animation blogs have also pushed beyond the stale mainstream media stories about animation like “Is 2D animation dead?” and “Why do so many celebrities watch SPONGEBOB?”; we have formed a custom, organically evolving media that is suited to the needs of this industry and art form.

The animation blogging community, while still in its infancy, expanded significantly in 2004. Mike Barrier started publishing his thoughts about animation regularly for the first time since the days of his groundbreaking magazine FUNNYWORLD. At AniPages Daily, Ben Ettinger shares views about Japanese animation that reach beyond the fanboy-ish tendencies of most anime discourse. The crew of Nick’s MY LIFE AS A TEEN-AGE ROBOT launched a blog of their own to communicate directly with the show’s fans and allow the average viewer a glimpse into the show’s production process. Artists like Ethan Hurd, Ronnie del Carmen, Enrico Casarosa and Jim Hull presented insights into their work techniques, tools of the trade and artistic inspirations. Ward Jenkins went a step further and fixed THE POLAR EXPRESS, elevating the discussion of how to improve modern animation to an entirely unprecedented level. This very site, Cartoon Brew, launched last March, and while I find it difficult to make any objective assessment of what (if anything) we accomplished, the fact that our readership has far eclipsed the combined readerships of our pre-Brew sites, Cartoon Research and Animation Blast, leads me to believe that we’re doing something right.

So who will create the next animation blog? In what directions will the community evolve? What can we do to push this art form to the next level? 2005 holds the answers and I can’t wait to find out.