Animutation

Neil Cicierega

Animutation is a form of web-based computer animation, typically created in Adobe Flash and characterized by unpredictable montages of pop-culture images set to music, often in a language foreign to the intended viewers. It is not to be confused with manual collage animation (e.g., the work of Stan Vanderbeek and Terry Gilliam) which predates the Internet.

Animutation was ‘invented’ by American comedian Neil Cicierega. Cicierega claims to have been inspired by several sources, notably bizarre Japanese commercials (parodied, for example, by the Simpsons’ Mr. Sparkle), and Martin Holmström’s ‘Hatten är din’ Soramimi video (interpreting lyrics in one language as similar-sounding lyrics in another language) made for the ‘Habbeetik’ song by Azar Habib.

The term animutation was popularized in early 2001 with flash animations such as ‘Japanese Pokerap,’ and more notably, ‘Hyakugojyuuichi!!,’ which featured the credits music from older episodes of Pokémon. The popularity of Hyakugojyuuichi!! quickly made it an Internet phenomenon. Since that time, others have adopted a similar style and communities of similarly-minded animators have sprung up around the web. These versions made by fans were christened ‘fanimutations.’

Animutations can be based on songs of foreign, independent, or mainstream origin. Japanese songs were used in many of the original animutations by Cicierega, but newer animutations use songs in a wide variety of languages, including English, Dutch, and gibberish. Some bands/singers who have performed a song in at least one animutation include Cibo Matto, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Rammstein. The foreign language songs are often ‘misheard’ into English by the creators and added as subtitles. The words are not translations but soramimis, English words that sound roughly the same as the original lyrics. For example the animutation title ‘French erotic film’ is a soramimi of the original Dutch lyrics ‘Weet je wat ik wil’ in an Ome Henk song. The actual translation of the lyrics is ‘Do you know what I want?’

Though animutations are close in relation to the random nonsense of dadaism (an early 20th century art form intended to poke fun at the supposed meaninglessness of the modern world) and can be entirely unpredictable, they sometimes exhibit recurring memes among them as a result of being influenced by each other and internet culture. Among the many recurring motifs found in animutations are: The inclusion of Colin Mochrie from ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ Regularly, a picture of Mochrie’s head superimposed into a crudely drawn sun is also used. This inclusion is largely due to Neil Cicierega’s bizarre fixation on the comedian. Another common feature is the inclusion of Harry Potter in various forms, often edited in a bizarre fashion. Cicierega, also the creator of the ‘Potter Puppet Pals’ (a puppet show web series parodying Harry Potter), is responsible from the outset explosion of Harry Potter’s use in animutation, most notably starting in ‘Hyakugojyuuichi.’ Other recurring themes include obscure pop-culture references, typically catchphrases or images, and random cartoon characters, usually from PBS educational programs or anime, although obscure characters are also used.

While many flash animations have a ‘replay button’ at the end, Animutations often use a silly graphic which animates when interacted with, included with instructions on how to replay the animutation. For instance, at the end of ‘Cold Heart,’ the title character is holding a package of Mentos, which serves as the replay button. When you hover your cursor over the package, it increases in size slightly. At the bottom of the video, there is text informing the user to ‘Click the Mentos to play again.’ Similarly to the replay button, a graphical and often animated progress animation is used in many Animutations, especially the later creations. For example, in ‘Jesus H. Christ,’ a papier-mâché duck which was originally in a ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ episode was used as a pointer, rotating clockwise to indicate how far into the animutation you were at in a given time.

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