On October 13th, Sydney based indie-animation studio, Glitch Productions, released the pilot for a new animated show called The Amazing Digital Circus onto YouTube. As of time of writing, the pilot currently has around 52 million views. “Digital Circus is very inspired by I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” says the showrunner and composer behind the show, Gooseworx, “But instead of AM being a living embodiment of hate, he’s a fun-loving wacky little guy.” Before the pilot aired, Gooseworx was most well known in online animation circles for creating shorts like Little Runmo, which is the short that caused Glitch Productions to reach out to her for a possible show pitch.
“It was exactly the kind of thing that we like to do here. It was funny, a little dark, and definitely very weird, like nothing we had seen before,” general manager and development producer at Glitch, Jasmine Yang, told Cartoon Brew in an interview about the show.
Glitch Productions are one of several teams on the forefront of the indie-animation boom, producing their own animated shows at broadcast quality without the typical backing of major companies and studios. The Amazing Digital Circus is one of the newer breakout hits from Glitch, which is also known for other shows such as Murder Drones and Meta-Runner. More and more artists and animators are taking their show-pitches and turning them into fully fledged shows to throw up online. Back in August, Iron Circus Animation ended their crowdfunding campaign after raising over two million dollars to produce their animated show, Lackadaisy. The show and pilot is based off of the web comic of the same name by Tracy Butler, who responded to the success of the crowdfunding saying, “I worked on Lackadaisy as a comic for years in relative isolation, with a modestly sized but steady and true audience. That last part made all the difference. I’m so grateful to the people who saw something special in the comic then, because they made it possible to springboard into funding a pilot. Now we’ve advanced to making a full animated first season!”
Most online indie-animated shows are released onto Youtube, where they are able to find their audiences for shows that would likely be deemed by larger studios to be too niche or too risky. Many productions like these receive funding directly from fans, whether through crowdfunding or merchandise. While some may be picked up by larger companies to air on streaming services, such was the case for Spindlehorse’s Hazbin Hotel on Prime video, others still choose to never go through major studios. Yang is quoted saying, “We believe very strongly in the future and potential of YouTube for long-form animation. A lot of this stems from what we’ve seen in the trends from streaming services, particularly towards animation. I don’t need to go into details about the recent wave of cancellations or the general disrespect towards animation from the mainstream, but we believe that YouTube is the best way forward.”
Ongoing anxieties surrounding animated shows on streaming services being suddenly canceled, sometimes before the episodes can even air, has left many animators with little faith and security in studio work, especially as many are freelancers who are often left very suddenly having to scramble for a new job when shows originally meant to be months long gigs are ended. Online independent animation, having existed for longer than streaming services, is beginning to be seen as viable ground for plenty of artists and animators to create the things they wish to see without potential studio meddling. It should be noted, however, that while some prove successful enough to make a living, for many others, these are works of passion, with only a handful reaching the sheer amount of attention that The Amazing Digital Circus has, but many remain hopeful that the works being released onto the web could shake up the animation industry.