That’s heresy I hear you say; of course the internet has brought about exciting animation! Ah, yes, that is true. YouTube has single-handedly brought about some of the most adventurous, entertaining and stimulating animation ever seen. Yet why does such animation remain confined to the internet, why have we yet to see the influence of the internet break through to TVs and films in the way it has leached into other areas of entertainment like news and documentaries?
The answer in effect, is quite simple: none of the internet stuff has made much money. Now before you jump the gun here, I’ll make some clarifications later on. Just stay with me for now.
Yes, internet animation has been the talk of the town for a while now, and is by far the best place to discover and watch exciting, stimulating animation. Prior to this, you had to visit a film festival or hope you were close to one. Nowadays, anyone with a connection can view and absorb all the animation they can muster.
Yet animation on TV and film remains, uh, boring for the most part. Even series like Adventure Time, Gravity Falls and the coming series Stephen Universe and Wander Over Yonder all lie well within the established boundaries for animated TV. If you want to get argumentative, you could say that animated TV has not moved on since John K’s Ren & Stimpy. Feature films have been moribund for decades, and the current crop have only gotten more homogeneous in the last few years.
Money is yet again the root cause of all of this. While internet animation is as wild and impulsive as it is, the vast majority of the stuff on there does not make much if anything. As such, that’s where a lot of its influence remains also. Traditional studios making either series or films, like to make animation they know is going to be popular but also profitable.
While the likes of Frederator are going full bore with their webseries, no financial information is available. (Although they did just move into a bigger office, so presumably they’re doing OK.) That said, Cartoon Hangover shows plenty of influence from the reverse direction; their shows are heavily reminiscent of what you’d expect to find on TV.
In conjunction with the profitability, there is also the age difference. Many internet animators are young, hungry and independent. Only a very select few are in any kind of position at a regular studio to command either a crew or output. The end result is that the top brass at many a studio remain traditionally minded and mostly familiar with the kind of content they are familiar with, i.e. not anything on the internet.
The Internet’s ‘Issues’ With Traditional Business Models
Lastly, besides the money and the talent, there are plenty of legacy issues like rights, licensing, standards and practices and so forth. All these combine to muzzle many of the wilder ideas put forth by animators and crews. The internet has no such barriers and what flows forth is almost exactly what the creators want. With that in mind it is often tough if not impossible to get even the tamer stuff past and as a result, it is safer to simply ignore it.
To clarify what was said earlier, yes, sometimes internet animation can make it through to TV. Annoying Orange is perhaps the most obvious among others. However, it did not influence TV, it simply transferred to it. There is a difference, and even then, there has been very little evidence that Annoying Orange is having any influence outside of parody and satire at its own expense.