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Posted at 1:15 PM ET, 05/18/2010

HAPPY 5th, YouTube! Eight Animated Clips to Mark the Cultural Occasion

By Michael Cavna

Fifth birthday already? Where did the time go? I've been so utterly immersed in viral videos lo these past five years -- tithing large chunks of my life to drunken squirrels and Steinway-playing kitties and fingertip-nibbling British toddlers with eyes atwinkle like a plucky Susan Boyle -- that I almost didn't notice: This week is YouTube's anniversary.

Happy birthday, YouTube! It's only fitting that we celebrate the anniversary that's marked with the gift of wood, because I've spent so many hours glued to my La-Z-Boy while enjoying your addictive little clips, I've gone long stretches barely moving more than a large, numb stump of spruce.

Such an occasion, YouTube. After five years of chronicling everything this side of Narnia, you say you're now streaming 2-billion views daily. I'd send you a birthday card, but that would involve getting up to actually tear myself away from replaying "Evolution of Dance" or JK's Wedding Dance or whatever it is OK Go's rubber-limbed hipsters are up to this week. How 'bout I send you an e-card -- it'll be the one that, instead of candles, has a cake topped with a quintet of Mentos-fizzing Coke bottles. Lazy Sunday, indeed.

Five years in, YouTube hasn't merely been a godsend to everyone from Andy Samberg to Obama Girl. It's also been a great host to animation -- from world-class CGI to the most charming of crude stop-motion. Sometimes legally, oftentimes with a copyright wink, YouTube delivers us everything from AniBOOM shorts to animated mashups in between Muppets belting out "Bohemian Rhapsody." (And it's worth noting: It was just last year that YouTube officially made a deal with Disney.)

From World of Warcraft to Smurfs, Legos to G.I. Joe-figure stop-motion, art-school student portfolios to grade-school creations, the animated offerings seem endless. (And that's excluding studio trailers, Oscar-nominated shorts, Pulitzer-winning animations, big-label-artist music videos, the archives of such animation legends as Terry Gilliam and Bill Plympton and Nick Park and Don Hertzfeldt, etc., etc. -- and other professional productions.)

So without further ado (or adieu), here's a personal list of eight animated videos that have ties to YouTube. It's not necessarily that they were launched on YouTube -- our criteria today are far looser. These are simply our Favorite Eight Clips that Comic Riffs first discovered on YouTube (with one notable exception) -- and that, in their own ways, seem to reflect the free-for-all spirit of YouTube as a global creative stage.


Comment: Created by Alan Becker, the original Flash stick-figure fight that started it all still feels, and reels, as fresh and inspired as it did years ago:


Comment: One of's best ever, Tomer Eshed's short about warring water-shrews blends craft, style and humor -- and this "Matrix"-of-the-marshlands film deservedly was a jury-prize winner a coupla years back.


Comment: No Mas and artist James Blagden celebrate "a man on a psychedelic journey" by animating the "true story" of Pirates pitcher Doc Ellis' legendary "LSD no-hitter" in 1970. (Radio producers Donnell Alexander and Neille Ilel recorded an interview with Ellis in which the former Buc gave "a moment by moment account of June 12, 1970, the day he no-hit the San Diego Padres.") The funkadelic feel of the Webby Award-nominated short -- so evocative of the '70s -- is just right.


Comment: For director/co-writer Lucas Martell, this story of a rookie secret agent battling a Washington, D.C., birdbrain was a five-year project. Bonus use of YouTube: You can go back and follow Martell's multi-year saga, via his interstitial tutorials.

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Comment: Simple charm and lo-tech approach go a long way.


Comment: From the perpetually sophomoric folks at College Humor: a one-note joke that's short, dark and effective.


Comment: Not for the squeamish or literal-minded. This compilation reel plays like an ode to everyone from Terry Gilliam to Edgar Allan Poe. In its eclectic randomness -- from world leaders to laser cats -- Cyriak's work pretty much epitomizes YouTube itself.


Comment: As JibJab co-founder Gregg Spiridellis told Comic Riffs this month, his company's first viral video, 2004's "This Land Is Your Land," actually predated YouTube by a year. But the animation helped many creators realize the potential audience for the file-sharing of amusing short videos. Happy birthday, YouTube -- and happy 11th, JibJab!


TERRY GILLIAM: A salute to Monty Python animation? This blogpost most assuredly is SPAM

AWARDS SEASON: Handicapping the best animation from 2009 -- in the words of their creators

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By Michael Cavna  | May 18, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  General, The Animation  | Tags:  Alan Becker, AniBOOM, Animation, Arts, CollegeHumor, Cyriak, Gregg Spiridellis, JibJab, Lucas Martell, Susan Boyle, Terry Gilliam, Video, YouTube  
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"So without further adieu ..." As in, much adieu about nothing?

Posted by: delfin88 | May 18, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

>> delfin88:

too punning? ahh, to further bastardize the Bard: The wordplay's the thing.


Posted by: cavnam | May 18, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

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