Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happy Tree Friends

Happy Tree Friends (1999-present), originally produced by Mondo Mini Shows, is a Flash-based cartoon that essentially takes the same physical comedy of the old Tom and Jerry cartoons and adds a ton of gore. The show features a cast of cute anthropomorphic animals that find themselves in perilous situations, usually resulting in their gruesome deaths/mutilations. Each character, however, reprises his/her role in the next episode, completely unscathed.
            When HTF began, each episode was about three minutes or less, most of which was used to exhibit the manner in which a character dies/gets mutilated. In Out on a Limb, the majority of the episode is dedicated to one of the characters having to cut his trapped leg off with a spoon; humor comes from the fact that he somehow manages to cut off the wrong leg. As his spoon becomes unusable, he has to go at the other with a paperclip. Without their violence, these episodes would have very little to offer in terms of plot. The glorification of violence is not something that is new to television. Metalocalypse, a show on Adult Swim, often has scenarios in which characters die in creative manners, but the show does not revolve around this violence; it is merely a component of the entertainment. As a show that finds nearly all of its entertainment value in gore, HTF wouldn't have done very well on television. Occasionally, HTF episodes would be featured in G4's Attack of The Show, but this was along with the other random content found on the show. Even Jackass, a show that is known for its exploitation of physical pain, finds ways to vary up the sketches, offering other kinds of edgy material for audience's amusement. 
         Happy Tree Friends is somewhat unique in that it found itself a full 30 minute time slot on G4's late night programming, but not without some variation in episode format. Each 21 minute episode featured three seven minute episodes, which allowed for more plot development. Although each TV episode still glorifies violence, there is a lot more attention on the situations the characters get themselves into. I've Got You Under My Skin starts with one of the characters getting locked out of her house in the cold. When tugging on the doorknob, it breaks off, sending her flying backward and non-fatally smashing her brains on a mailbox. With a little more gore, this may have been the entire plot of an episode in the past. The plot continues, however, turning into a Fantastic Voyage homage in which one of her friends builds a ship and tries to heal her from the inside. The episode does end with the death of all of the characters, but it has a lot more substance and entertainment derived from situations that do not involve gore.
            After these episodes found their way onto television, they began to appear in full length on Youtube, with some episodes garnering over ten million views. This duel-medium presentation allows for more access by viewers to the HTF world. Without the original show's success on the internet, it would not have found its way onto G4. Likewise, without the opportunity to find its way into G4's programming, HTF's creators probably would not have created the improved version that found such popularity on the internet.
            In order to get a program on television, those involved in its production need to jump through a lot of hoops. If they do not have enough money to make several full length episodes, or if their content is deemed "inappropriate", it may never make it onto television. The internet, however, allows for users, both experienced and non, to produce and distribute their creative content with ease. The content does not have to pander to any specific demographic, and it can get away with lower production values-all while having the ability to reach millions.

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