Web Design & Development Guide
A Flash animation or Flash cartoon is an
film which is created using
Adobe Flash animation software and often distributed in the
.swf file format.
It can be created in Flash or with other programs capable of writing
.swf files. The term Flash animation not only refers to the file format
but to a certain kind of movement and visual style which, in many
circles, is seen as simplistic or unpolished. However, with dozens of
Flash animated television series, countless more Flash animated
television commercials, and award-winning online shorts in circulation,
Flash animation is enjoying a renaissance.
In the late 1990s, when for most Internet users, bandwidth was still at
56 kbit/s, many Flash animation artists employed limited animation or cutout
animation when creating projects intended for web distribution. This
allowed artists to release shorts and interactive experiences well under 1mb,
which could stream both audio and high-end animation. One example is the first
The Goddamn George Liquor Program released in 1999, rendered at only 628kb.
Some hallmarks of poorly-produced Flash animation are jerky natural movements
(seen in walk-cycles and gestures), auto-tweened character movements, lip-sync
without interpolation, and abrupt changes from front to profile view. Although
Flash is able to integrate bitmaps and other raster-based art, as well as video,
most Flash films are created using only
vector-based drawings which often result in a somewhat clean graphic
Flash animations are typically distributed by way of the
World Wide Web, in
which case they are often referred to as Internet cartoons, online
cartoons, or webtoons. Web Flash animations may be
interactive and are often created in a series. A Flash animation is
distinguished from a
Webcomic, which is a comic strip distributed via the Web, rather than an animated cartoon.
Today, Flash animations are being more and more widely used in the multiuser
community with flash generators and embeded videos in user's profiles across the
internet. Many popular remakes are appearing over and over again with the
growing success in a less pioneered subject. Youtubes are poping up over the
internet with google video and myspace video, and flash generators are too
numerous to count. Many of the flash generators are now used for webmasters in
menu creators but the dynamic lipsyncing flash characters and font to image
manipulators are still the most dominant.
Simple animation in Flash MX; a square moving across the screen in a
motion tween, one of the basic functions of Flash.
The first prominent use of the Flash animation format was by
& Stimpy creator
John Kricfalusi. He embarked on a mission to bring cartoons to the Internet.
Kricfalusi employed George Liquor (a fictional character rumored to have ended
Kricfalusi's employment on Ren & Stimpy) and his dim-witted nephew Jimmy the
Hapless Idiot Boy on their own Internet program titled
The Goddamn George Liquor Program. Later, John produced more animated
projects with Flash including several online shorts for Icebox.com, television
commercials, and a music video. Soon after that, web cartoons began appearing
The Von Ghouls went live in November 1999, featuring the first music
group with cartoon episodes online including original songs, in the vein of
Saturday morning cartoons of the 1970s. A number of popular portal sites
featured Flash animation during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, including
Icebox, MondoMedia, CampChaos, MediaTrip, and AtomFilms. Stan Lee of
Marvel Comics launched an animated comics site.
The Internet also saw the proliferation of many adult-only Flash cartoon
sites. Some of the shows from that period made the transition to traditional
media, including Queer Duck, Gary the Rat, Happy Tree Friends, the
politically-minded JibJab shorts and the popular Homestar Runner. Occasionally, the trend has been reversed: after being
canceled from both ABC and Fox,
created net-only episodes of
in 2000-2001. In another instance, Flash almost made the transition to the big
screen. In 2001, production began on what would have been the first
Flash-animated feature film, the ill-fated "Lil' Pimp," which also began life as
an Internet series. As potentially controversial as its subject matter was, it
had a relatively large budget, a number of well-known actors (including William
Shatner, Bernie Mac, and Lil Kim), a full crew, and a running time of nearly 80
minutes. Although Sony Pictures decided not to release the film, it was
eventually released on DVD by Lion's Gate.
Several recording companies experimented with releasing animated music videos
to promote their artists' releases online, including Madonna, the Beastie Boys
and Tenacious D, however none became the hit that allowed for the expansion of
Flash animated music videos. Adam Sandler and Tim Burton
among others, released original Internet-only animated works, but were not able
to devise successful financial models and the trend dissipated, largely as a
result of a lack of viable micropayment systems.
Several popular online series are currently produced in Flash, such as the
Off-Mikes, produced by
Animax Entertainment and
Girls, produced by
animated television series are produced using Macromedia Flash, inspired by
both the comparatively low cost of production and the unique style that can be
achieved with the software, including Metalocalypse, Being Ian, Foster's Home
For Imaginary Friends, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, Happy Tree Friends, Odd Job Jack,
Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, the
BBC Three show Monkey Dust, Yin Yang Yo, Aaagh! It's the Mr. Hell Show and
Shorties Watching Shorties on
Other television series, such as
Home Movies and
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, both broadcast on
Cartoon Network's Adult Swim
programming block, have switched to Flash from other animation technology.
Many animation film festivals have responded to the popularity of Flash
animation by adding separate categories in competition for "web cartoons" or
"Internet cartoons." Additionally, several exclusively web-based Flash
competitions have been established. It is speculated that only the category
"made for Internet" will survive, as competitions at animation film festivals
are typically arranged in categories defined by film length and distribution
channel, rather than by animation techniques or tools used to create the films.
Timeline - First Flash Projects on Television
The Rosie O'Donnell Show - Opening Titles
||For the 2000 and 2001 seasons, the show opens were created by
Bullseye Art, which has spun off into a company called
Magic Butter. These titles were nominated for a daytime Emmy for
'Main Title Design.'
||This aired on the
Oxygen Network in March 2000 as part of the "X-Chromosome" block a sort
of female Liquid Television overseen by Kit Laybourne and Machi Tantillo.
||Ollie's Under The Bed Adventures
||This was a half-hour special on Teletoon in March, which eventually
spawned the series now known as
||In November of 2001, this series launched on Australia's
Special Broadcasting Service network.
||The title sequence for this BBC program was produced in Flash by
||One hundred minutes of a series of Public Service Annoncements
(PSA's) for the project Meena were animated by Future Thought
Productions for UNICEF
||The Proud Family Shorties
||These episodes of
The Proud Family were animated at
Hyperion Pictures under the Animobile label. Two episodes were animated
by Animax Entertainment (The Beach and The Picnic).
||The second season of this series was produced in Flash.
||The first US network Flash series.
||The Mr. Dink Show
||Canada’s first broadcast Flash production.
||On BBC Two Wales.
||A stickfigure animation shown on MTV
Stroker and Hoop
||Canceled Adult Swim series.
Timeline - Other Flash Animated TV Series
CBC Television, this became one of the first Flash productions to
make the move from online "webisodes"
to national TV.
Yin Yang Yo
||The Second Disney series made entirely in Flash.
||A Flash series based on a series of online shorts produced by VOOZ
in South Korea. The TV series is produced by Studio B in Canada.
||A Flash series based on the story of the original
Chaotic Trading Card Game.
Timeline - First Flash Feature Film Projects
The Golden Blaze
||Directed by Bryon E. Carson, starring the voices of Blair Underwood
and Michael Clarke Duncan, had a limited theatrical run making it the
first flash animated film to be released on the big screen.
Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss
||Former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink took 4 1/2 years to make it
and he drew 112,000 frames with a Wacom tablet directly into Flash 4, in
combination with Moho.
||That Darn Jesus
||An animated segment of nineteen minutes produced at an aspect ratio
of 1.85:1 and HD 1080 (1920 px X 1080 px) for the movie Universal Remote
by Future Thought Productions.
Flash Animation Distribution
While the creation of animation using Flash can be easier and less expensive
than traditional animation techniques, the amount of time, money, and skill
required to produce a project using the software depends on the chosen content
and style. Internet distribution is considerably easier and less expensive than
television broadcasting, and websites such as Newgrounds and UGOplayer provide
free hosting. Many Flash animations are created by individual or amateur
artists, although it does require some amount of technical knowledge to create a
notable work with the software. Many Flash animations first distributed on the
web became popular enough to be broadcast on television, particularly on such
networks as MTV and G4TV.
Flash Animation in Professional Studios
Flash animation production is enjoying considerable popularity in major
animation studios around the world, as animators take advantage of the
software's ability to organize a large number of assets (such as characters,
scenes, movements, and props) for later re-use. Because Flash files are in
vector file format, they can be used to transfer animation to 35 mm film without
any compromise in image quality. This feature is used by several independent
animators world-wide, including Phil Nibbelink, who saw his 77-minute feature
film Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss released in theaters in 2006.
Creating Flash animation from other software
There are a number of other software packages available that can create
output in the .swf format. Among these are Animo, (Cambridge Animation Systems),
Toon Boom Studio, Toufee, Celaction and Anime Studio (previously named Moho from
Lost Marble, now eFrontier). These front-ends often provide additional support for creating
cartoons, especially with tools more tailored to traditionally-trained
animators, as well as additional rigging for characters, which can speed up
character animation considerably. Additionally, there are programs available
which translate 3D information into 2D vectors. There are loads of flash
designers all around the globe, of which quite a few are mentionable. Neostream
appointed 8 designers worldwide to create their site of which the leading
designer was ABM Kamran, a boy of 17 from Bangladesh.
OSFlash hosts a number of different
source methods of dealing with Flash animation.
Newgrounds: Everything, by Everyone The biggest repository of
user-submitted Flash animation in the world. People are free to submit their
own Flash work, or browse the thousands of submissions.
Homestar Runner - A flash animation site very popular for its web
cartoons and games.
JibJab - A collection of flash cartoons popularized by a parody of
Woodie Guthrie's This Land is Your Land for the 2004 presidential election.
Flash Cartoons - One of the first flash cartoon sites, original
cartoons, tutorials on animation.
Action Message Format