Having grounded its roots in the early 2000s, the web animation phenomenon has managed to excavate its way through the endless arcade of web content. Despite having a decline in viewership in the early 2010s, slight alterations in the web animation formula has resurrected the scene through YouTube, resulting in a bombardment of such channels in the last two years.
The web animation scene itself isn't anything new. In fact, it has been around since the dial-up days of internet, dating back to the 90s. While making such content wasn't a concern for the animators even on limited resources, finding a medium for distribution was, since the format was never suitable for broadcast. Newgrounds, the American online entertainment and social media website and company, had bridged the gap back in the early 2000s but the animators eventually shifted to YouTube, which offered a scope for monetisation based on views. In 2012, YouTube drastically changed their monetisation algorithm based on watch time, instead of rewarding content creators for the number of views they gain. That heavily affected animators who made short two to five-minute videos since those were no longer a viable option for monetisation as they generated meagre watch time values.
Domics and sWooZie were the first channels to bring a change to comply with the algorithm shift. The animation got stripped down to lesser details, but the length of the videos was increased in average. This format was coined as “animatics”, although there's a debate surrounding that since the original use of the word implies something different. The videos started to follow a story-based arrangement, often involving the personal lives of their creators. Jaiden Animations and TheOdd1sOut followed suit and eventually, within a few years, these channels were topping the Trending charts in YouTube. The outburst of such channels was clearly evident in 2017, with most of the newer channels having registered in that year.
Now what is it that sets them apart from all the other YouTube channels featuring actual footage of people vlogging their personal experiences or fabricating stories (Yes, I'm looking at you, Tana Mongeau) to build an audience? The animators are not necessarily homogenous in terms of their personalities; channels like sWooZie and Tabbes seem to lean on one end of the spectrum while channels such as Jaiden Animations and Domics weigh on the opposite end. However, most of them do seem to offer a sense of honesty and maintain a very personal touch unlike content creators who obnoxiously scream for 156 seconds to buy their merch. Moreover, a number of channels push informative content related to mental health and history in the form of simple animatics.
The animation quality might seem like a mixed bag. While the more dedicated channels tend to put out smoother and more detailed animation, others seem to leave out certain complicated and time-consuming procedures such as lip-syncing or in some cases, proper animation. The result is a disturbing amount of content that look like PowerPoint presentations edited on Windows Movie Maker with stories of doing the laundry penned by a 12-year old.
Regardless of the tendency to push inferior content by some of the animators, the YouTube animation scene is thriving at the moment with high viewership. Animation is quite a hectic pursuit in its own merits. And while YouTube isn't exactly optimised for profiting off of animation, it certainly is a tangible option for those who are yet to break into the high-budget industry and broadcasting networks.
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