Some sentences are unforgettable. They let you know what kind of world you live in, what truly motivates people. John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, and countless other leaders have inspired us. For me, I have one single sentence that has gotten me through the longest and hardest days:
“It’s Peanut-Butter Jelly Time”
A banana comes forward. It begins dancing. Seeing the banana dance to its heart’s content reassures me all is good with the world. Even after the flash animation craze has ended, sometimes I long for peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat. You know, the quintessential American pastime: eating food and violence.
Flash Animation warmed me in the evening. It served as a night light, comforting me in its self-contained environment. Sure Flash Animations continue but they don’t have the same amount of importance. Watching two eggs (Weebl and Bob) talk in gibberish about pies gave me hope in the future of humanity. On the opposite end, “Foamy the Squirrel” gave me no hope about anything. After I saw any “Foamy the Squirrel” episode I’d feel simultaneously relieved and guilty, the kind of emotion you experience after masturbating.
Entire communities came together to celebrate the weird. People used to huddle around the computer watching pointless cartoons on “Ebaumsworld”. Once you made it big on Ebaumsworld, you could start your own website. Possessing your own website made you a big deal. Usually there would be some marketing gimmick thrown in, “Salad Fingers” spoons being a particularly egregious example. Yes, that animator happened to be a sick, disturbed individual but that made his animations only that much better.
Homestar Runner might have been the “Seinfeld” of Flash Animation. The weird yet wholesome humor made it a perfect pick. You could show it to your parents, to your younger siblings, really to anyone. Somehow they managed to transcend the ordinary. An entire environment, really a village worth of material got compressed into a single website. Unlike a lot of flash animations, they were able to use inspiration from viewers via Strong Bad’s emails. Later they sold DVDs of the popular email segment. Countless spinoffs of spinoffs existed. “Teen Girl Squad” grew off of single email. Other parts of the site lightly mocked lesser flash animation cartoons.
The internet cycles through fads. Every Myspace has its Facebook. For Flash Animation, its demise was YouTube. Unlike Flash Animation, YouTube videos require less work. Most YouTube clips don’t inspire others. Instead, the emotion from the viewers is usually one of laughter, pity, or embarrassment. Oddly the creator of the said YouTube clip has roughly the same range of emotions.
Where did the Flash Animators go? Most of them went to work on weird, quirky cartoons such as “Home Movies” or “Gary the Rat”. Both of those happen to be personal favorites of mine, especially “Gary the Rat”. Anyone who can have Kelsey Grammer voice a giant rat lawyer is a hero in my book. These were the successful, non-embarrassing ones. “Stroker and Hoop” was one of those that after you finished watching it you wondered “Why?” and proceeded to do some chore to wash the guilt off you had from wasting a half-hour of your life.
Perhaps at some point, in the not-so-distant future, we’ll be explaining to our children what Flash Animation was. Perhaps we’ll even explain what YouTube was. All I know for certain is that anywhere, on any given day or time, it is Peanut Butter Jelly Time.