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This Was The Most-Viewed Piece of Online Animation in 2012 [UPDATED]

Here’s a bit of irony: the most-viewed piece of original on-line animation in 2012 went viral primarily because people didn’t realize it was animated. I’m talking about this video of a golden eagle snatching a toddler off the ground:

The short animated clip has been watched over 41 million times in the two weeks since it has been posted online. Both the eagle and baby are CG characters, and the piece was produced as a student exercise by Antoine Seigle, Normand Archambault, Loïc Mireault and Félix Marquis-Poulin at Montreal-based Centre NAD.

The success of this animation serves as a reminder that corporations remain clueless about what audiences want to watch online. YouTube spent $100 million dollars last year in its backward-looking attempt to create niche “channels” a la cable television. This single piece of animation, produced by students as a class exercise, outperformed the viewership of 76 of those YouTube channels. I don’t claim to have any answers as to what people want to watch online, but it’s pretty clear that the entertainment industry’s cynical top-down approach of mass-producing content for narrow demographics has become irrelevant.

[UPDATE:] Brew reader Justin Goran points out that the title of 2012’s most-viewed online animated film belongs to Fallen Kingdom, a music video parody based in an animated Minecraft world. The film was posted online on April 1st, 2012, and has currently reached over 45 million views:

  • Oslaf

    It’s an interesting thought, but maybe we should also check up on the most viewed piece of animation in which the viewer is actually aware he or she is watching a piece of animation (this was created as an attempted hoax video).
    If we’re to extend the popularity of an item to its medium, the user should at least be able to relate one to the other. I mean, last year’s most popular food wasn’t oxygen, was it?

    • Whether the viewer was able to tell it’s animated or not doesn’t change the fact that this is a piece of animation created by animators, and it was the most viewed piece of original online animation in 2012. Animation is animation is animation.

      • trn

        no i think perception plays a large role. nobody watched this because it was animated. they watched it because of the spectacle. this could have been legitimately live action and it would have still gotten as many views and we wouldn’t be discussing any of this right now.

        • Trn – No one said that people watched it because it was animation. The one incontrovertible point of this post is that this was the most-watched piece of animation in 2012. And yes, it could have been live-action, but it wasn’t. That’s why we call it the most-watched piece of animation.

  • It’s pretty simple. People heard that an eagle had flown off with a child. They wanted to see the horrible sight for themselves, the same way they watch a train wreck or Jerry Springer. Then when they heard it was a hoax, they wanted to see a hoax.
    If the very same video had been put on an animation channel and people had been told at the outset “Here is a piece of animation simulating….” the vast majority would yawn and look at something else.

    • the Gee

      “If the very same video had been put on an animation channel and people had been told at the outset “Here is a piece of animation simulating….” the vast majority would yawn and look at something else.”

      I disagree with that. People would because it LOOKS SO REAL. If it was done badly then what you say would be the case.

      This type of animation and its effectiveness and its “success” does tie into something I’ve been wondering about lately. There’s so much FX laden films, and TV, too, that relies on animation and of course on Motion/performance Capture to make certain types of entertainment work. I wonder how that will affect fully animated stuff. It would seem like it would push every fully animated project in good ways, maybe more cartoony design and action. Maybe it ups the ante on making truly unbelievable things look plausible. But, that is already being done with the superhero comic adaptations and the fantasy/sci-fi films.

      I just wonder if it is good there’s so much live action that is being plussed or if having a lot of that entertainment will have an adverse affect on what audiences accept and look for in fully animated entertainment. There’s probably many reasons why some releases, like Guardians of the Whatever, underperformed. But, there’s somethings which could be done as live action that is plussed so why bother with certain genres.

      I dunno. I got interrupted after I began writing this so I hope it makes sense.

  • Ah yes, but the channels have branding on their side.

    If you asked the average punter in the street who made this, they likely wouldn’t have a clue. The limits of their knowledge would extend to the fact that it was outed as a fake and that’s it.

    Branded channels are an easy way for companies to give consumers an easily recognizable symbol of quality and style. So even though it may appear backward looking, it actually does serve a purpose.

    Videos like this one and Psy’s Gangam Style are flashes in the pan. Yes, they rack up the views, but any record company executive will tell you that a moderately successful artist will bring in more money than a one hit wonder any day and their brand helps play a large role in that.

    • Branding is a term that means nothing in the context of entertainment, creativity and filmmaking. It’s a modern concept invented by business world hacks who cannot comprehend the abstractions of creative enterprise.

      • the Gee

        Amid, you’re probably right in dissing that hard.

        However, the Big Idea of Branding does work for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Etc. because it allows those companies to try and make money from other businesses, and celebrities, too. And, those businesses will pay if they believe that a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, etc. are needed to extend their branding, and is essential for the company’s web presence.
        One thing I’m very uncertain about is if the example video earned the creators anything beyond “exposure”. Isn’t there some kind of program set up in YouTube that you join prior to potentially earning ad revenue? To join, a certain threshold needs to be in place. I would think that if this had millions of views in just two weeks, does YT benefit much more than the creators?
        I’ve had several people explain to me how it works but they don’t make much from YT. So, I have no idea how it works for that scale of views.

  • Marvin O

    Everything about the piece of animation is credible, save for the slow speed of the run. This is, at the oldest, a young-middle-aged male and there’s no reason save physical impairment for him to perform such a pokey canter when a child is being allegedly snatched by an eagle.

    • Ok

      Cool story bro.

  • wever

    No, YouTube isn’t the one who’s clueless as to what to makret the most. It’s the viewers that speak to YouTube! If you want to point fingers, point the fingers at US.

  • WryGuyHi

    Your conclusion seems illogical. There were still millions and millions (and millions) and views for the content channels you deride. There are millions and millions (and millions) of performers who would kill for that kind of “irrelevance.”

  • What was that one that has an orange saying ‘hey apple, I’m an orange’ or more likely a funnier gag…. I think that has something like 45 billion views and a film adaptation is in the works (?). How’s that gangnam style dance thing? Pretty pointless? Youtube hits are a mystery. Simons Cat is an animation with effort, charm and humour and is rightly much viewed but is most likely out performed by that kid Fred who’s schtik is to make his voice squeeky. The question here is not about quality animation being appreciated or sought rather, ‘what the hell is it that draws the world’s keyboard clickers into this minute’s must see load of old trousers?’

  • Mac

    You bring up an interesting point about those Youtube channels. I would not produce and release anything on a youtube channel with the protection of the partnership of one of Googles actual cooperative partners(Google doesn’t have a freaking phone for most people). Otherwise, you could just put it out there and have it taken down from their partnership program. So it’s foolish to put any real labor into that kind of production as a singular Artist. Bravest Warriors is the only show where I imagine they are really getting paid, but the cheap cartoons by Fred Siebert, you basically humiliate yourself and everyone snickers at your own premiere party, and its probably just amounting to a few thousand dollars for a “series” anyone, nothing more than a freelance gig with your own name and creative compromises on it.

  • Actually the most viewed animated video of 2012 on youtube is “Fallen Kingdom”, A music video parody based in an animated minecraft world. The video is currently at 45 million views.

    His last video he released last year (2011) was “Revenge” and that video is over 85 million views, also a minecraft animated music video.

  • wgan

    animation aside, the voice acting was so bad as if he wasn’t even trying!

  • So .. this means that cartoonbrew will post more about special effects and videogame/machinima this year ?

  • Nic

    I’m not sure how this is a reflection of ‘The Biz’ not getting what viewers want.

    People were told “Hey, wanna see a bird try to take off with a baby?” and they went to watch it because yes. Yes they did.

    It’s called a train wreck. Everyone has always stopped to stare. It’s why reality television is a thing. All this says to me is that the industry is doing /exactly/ what people are asking it to do. Give them horror and someone’s misfortune to laugh at.

  • OtherDan

    On the one hand, we’ve been taught that the best animation is the kind that creates that suspension of disbelief. That clip succeeds on that level. On the other hand, this was pretty disturbing to see on first viewing (especially as a parent). I’m sure that’s why it got so many views-plus, once you know it’s a hoax, you’re more inclined to share it and scare the shit out of you friends-also bumping the numbers. I still find it disturbing. I think if you’re going to go through the trouble of animating something so photo realistic and shocking, why not have fun with it? Have the fake baby fight for his life or something. I find the whole uncanny valley approach to animation disturbing. I’m sure this vid will push someone else to do something more shocking/alarming and so on. Until people have heart attacks watching them. I think niche entertainment channels are a better course than one-hit-wonders that rely on pure shock and awe for attention when it comes to animation.