Two weeks ago, I wrote about how Flash is unique from traditional animation methods, as it does not have to be drawn frame by frame. I felt it was a decent overview of Flash's general role in cinema and considered the business done. So naturally, it would be that same week that this would drop:
The this in question is Animation vs Animator IV (Becker, 2014). It is a thirteen minute long, Flash animated short that's gone viral online. It's a mesmerizing cartoon that really deserves your attention, even if it isn't a theatrical release. More importantly, it's titular animation is drawn entirely frame by frame. This is eloquently demonstrated over the course of the wondrously meta narrative about a self-aware stick figure who finds itself in conflict with its mostly unseen animator. Throughout their battle the stick figure uses the same tools that gave it life (Flash Programs) to create its own allies to fight the animator. In doing so it also gives the audience a detailed look into precisely how Flash cartoons can be made in a more traditional manner: drawing figures one frame at a time.
Such methods are not at all uncommon in short subjects. Flash is more than capable of accommodating the process, even if it does offer time saving alternatives. Using a Flash suite, an individual can produce a brief animation frame-by-frame. One has only to look at the thousands of Flash shorts hosted on sites like Newgrounds.com to realize just how many amateur animators are constantly working on all manner of animated shorts. However, the demands of a feature length animation are, quite naturally, far more prohibitive, and usually beyond the skill of a lone animator.
Consequently, feature-length Flash animations of this sort are virtually non-existent. In fact after over a week of research, I can only find two movies that were drawn frame-by-frame in Flash: Dick Figures: The Movie (Skuddler & Keller, 2013) and Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (Nibbelink, 2006). Dick Figures utilizes incredibly simplistic animations and was created by a team of professional animators, musicians, and sound technicians in less than a year. It's uniquely contrasted by Sealed with a Kiss, which was written, directed, and animated in its entirety by a solitary, former Disney employee over the course of roughly three years.
Dick Figures is a disjointed adventure-comedy movie, filled with pointless fight scenes, tired ethnic stereo-types, and scatological humor. It's very much a product of internet culture, which is evidenced by its characters' penchants for emoting by way of the memetic "rage faces" commonly seen on message boards. Despite its questionable intellectual merit, Dick Figures minimalistic style allows it to easily render incredibly fluid, complex animations. Visually, the film is mesmerizing, even if it usually looks like the animatic storyboards of a more ambitious project.