What’s the most popular piece of animation on the Internet right now? How about KIWI!, a Master’s thesis film by Dony Permedi of School of Visual Arts. The 3-minute, dialogue-less short became a “Featured Video” on YouTube’s front page a few days ago and it connected with audiences in a way that nobody could have expected. It is currently the most linked-to video on the blogosphere according to Technorati.com, it’s in the top 15 all-time favorited videos on YouTube, and it’s racked up nearly two million views in the past week.
That last number is particularly impressive. It’s one thing to talk in the abstract about the Internet and the potential it offers for animated shorts, but KIWI! offers clear proof that an online audience exists for animated shorts. When was the last time anybody heard of a piece of student animation being viewed two million times in a week? Even if the film had screened at dozens of film festivals or been released onto a compilation dvd of shorts, it’s unlikely to have ever achieved such a sizable viewership through traditional short film distribution channels.
KIWI!’s success is part of a much bigger story, which is how the Internet is making animated shorts accessible to mainstream audiences, something that hasn’t happened in the last thirty or forty years. It’s going to take some time until filmmakers figure out models for generating revenue from their shorts online, but with a worldwide audience thirsty for fresh animated content, making money from animated shorts has finally become a matter of when and not if.