A navigator’s guide to the Web’s top toon sites

Calling all animaniacs! If you can’t get your quota of animation through traditional outlets, you might want to explore the World Wide Web’s animation sites. Since there are literally thousands of these sites to choose from, this brief survey makes no claim to being comprehensive, but it can serve as an introduction to the multitude of animation Web sites that await any cybernauts who care to look for them.

A word of warning however, for inexperienced Web surfers. This is a time-consuming and often frustrating process. First of all, to access the capabilities of the best animation sites, you are going to need at least a good 13-inch color monitor, a 28.8-speed modem or higher, at least 16 megabytes of RAM and either Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to get you around the Web efficiently. Search engines such as Alta Vista, Excite, Lycos and Yahoo! will also help narrow your search. Plus you’ll need “plug-ins” at various sites such as “Shockwave,” which enhances motion and sound effects. And finally, be prepared to wait for downloads, some of which take 15 minutes or more.

Art for sale

A good place to start is the Animation World Network, an electronic monthly publication devoted to the art, craft and industry of animation. Found at http://www.awn.com, AWN offers a magazine, career connections, a calendar of events, a gallery of exhibits and links to different animators and animation companies. Also included is an encyclopedia of the animation industry and something called “Heaven & Hell,” which requires several “plug-ins” for 3-D graphics.

Naturally, some of the biggest sites are those of major animation studios. Disney, located at http://www.disney.com, provides keys to their kingdom including Disneyland, Disney World, Walt Disney Pictures & Home Video and even the Disney Store. You can plan a trip to Disneyland, buy something in their store, pick out what you want to watch on TV, color an animated cell of Mickey and screen trailers from “Flubber” and “The Little Mermaid” — if you can endure the download time.

Even more impressive is Disney’s “The Daily Blast” at http://www.dailyblast.com, a subscription-based site costing $4.95 a month that offers enough comics, games, stories and adventures to keep kids online forever. Check out “Detective in a Jar” about a brain that’s a gumshoe, or play “Donald’s Quack n’ Jack,” an animated ring-toss game. All in all, it’s a fun site for those willing to cough up the coin for it.

Warner Bros.’ site at http://www.warnerbros.com is another entertainment megaplex where you can spend days looking around their movies, TV shows, cartoons and the WB lot. WB Animation features Looney Tunes karaoke, a Daffy Duck trivia contest and a Kids WB section featuring a games gallery, Animation 101, where kids learn how to animate cartoons for TV, and a schedule of upcoming movies and shows for kids.

“Our primary focus is to engage and entertain the user, but it needs to be engaging to hold one’s interest,” says Elizabeth Sherman, director of programming and development at WB On Line. “The key to our success,” she continues, “is the depth of the site, and that we constantly keep it updated.”

Fox’s animated feature “Anastasia” has a site at http://www.anya.com, where you can find out all about the movie and its characters or access it from Fox’s main site at http://www.fox.com, which links you to Fox Kids. At http://www.foxkids.com, you’re treated to summaries and show teasers from “The Simpsons,” “Casper” and “Life With Louie,” among others, along with games, graphics and sound bites, but the video clips’ three-minute downloads only give you about 10 seconds of animation, so don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Fans of knuckleheads Beavis and Butt-head will want to visit the Beavis and Butt-head Extravaganza, located at http://www.worldramp.net/~pjoiner/bandbl. This is a “fan-maintained” site (of which there are thousands), which has no affiliation to Nickelodeon or the makers of the cartoon. The site, which offers links to other B&B sites as well as three Shockwave clips of the lads trading their inane banter, is maintained by Patrick Joiner, who explained that this bootleg site helped him land his current job as technical manager for Sega’s Web site.

According to Patrick, “Each Shockwave episode took about one to two hours to create. The hardest part is getting source materials (sounds, images, etc.), because I have to sample them, then clean them up in Photoshop, or use a sound-editing program. Once the episode goes up, it’s not difficult to maintain.”

He adds, “I don’t have a cost maintaining the site, since it is thrown in with the $20/month I pay for my site as a whole. Viacom is tolerant of the site. In fact, they sent me free copies of the Beavis and Butt-head titles in release for PC CD-ROM. I think it was an act of goodwill for B&B fan sites.”

Another fan-based site, “The Lion King’s” WWW Archive at http://www.lionking.org has a huge inventory of sounds and images from the film. The site is maintained by Brian Tiemann, a junior in engineering at Caltech. Brian puts “about three or four hours a week into the site, mostly watching my access logs and customizing things for the typical Web surfer.”

He chose not to use Shockwave or anything requiring external programs or plug-ins. “I try to make it so anybody using any browser can enjoy the site. Fortunately, it doesn’t cost me a thing to maintain,” adds Brian, a Webmaster for a Web server at school. “If it did, I’d have a hard time keeping it available for free. I know Disney’s policy is that they will crack down on any site that charges money for access to the copyrighted material.”

When it comes to bootlegging sites, Rebecca Buxton, the PR manager for Disney On Line, says, “To the extent that these sites show the tremendous warmth and emotional attachment that these people have for Disney, we think they are great.”

Independent animation studios such as Klasky Csupo, creators of “Rugrats” and “Duckman,” and Spumco, who developed “Ren & Stimpy,” also have sites at http://www.klaskycsupo.com and http://www.spumco.com. Both sites are wacky and irreverent. The Klasky site offers a company profile, sections on their TV shows, specials and commercials along with a kids section, featuring a contest for “The Yuckiest Kid in the World,” which includes fun and gross noises like barfs, burps and “singing farts.”

Spumco highlights a cartoon entitled “The Goddamn George Liquor Program” that is as raunchy as it is innovative, offering 6 minutes of real-time animation with no (repeat no) downloading. This streaming video technology is revolutionary compared to the traditional 15-minute download for a minute of animation. Along with “George Liquor,” which offers a new episode each week, the site also has an animation magazine, Bjork’s animated rock video and some “Girly Cartoons,” provided by Spumco president John Kricfalusi, who vows this breakthrough will mean “the death of television.” “Now animators can deliver their cartoons straight to the audience free of interference from networks,” says Kricfalusi.

And in case you’re wondering if “South Park” has a site, the answer is a resounding yes. The official site is located at http://www.comedycentral.com, where you can also find their other animated hits “The Tick” and “Dr. Katz.” The “South Park” site features a couple minutes of original streaming animation (no downloads!) from the show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, starring the “South Park” crew. Along with this, Yahoo! lists more than 25 fan-based “South Park” sites, which offer everything from multiple scenes of Kenny being killed to umpteen shots of Cartman and his cheesy poofs, so knock yourself out.

There are myriad more sites that deserve mention, including Kablam!, Rocky &Bullwinkle, Mr. Potato Head and just about any animated feature or creature imaginable.

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