2020: Of Cartoons and Community

Before 2020 bows out, I wanted to write something that discussed it in retrospective. However, I’m not going to talk about the year in general or people’s experiences with it. There are plenty of other places where people with a much greater knowledge and understanding of things have done so, and I worry that I’ll come off as unintentionally disrespectful if I attempt it.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about animation and the community surrounding it helped to make 2020 a much better year for me than it otherwise might have been.

I’ve been a fan of animation for as long as I can remember, even to the point of trying to do a “1001 Films You Should Watch”-styled project that lead to me gathering nearly 4000 cartoons to whittle down into a shortlist of recommendations, but there was a period of about a year and half where I fell out of it. While I’d still think about cartoons and check out the occasional one, I didn’t engage with the medium anywhere near as much as I used to.

Then around the end of 2019, I’d found out about Cartoon Milk through its writers, who I used to chat with on the World Animation Discord, and the excellent articles they wrote up. I’d always wanted to try and get into talking about animation like how I write about video games for HG101, but I could never find the confidence to really push through with it beyond a handful of YouTube videos.

Although I didn’t know whether or not they took guest articles (they do), I thought I might as well try to pitch something just so I could give myself an outlet for my thoughts and maybe try to get back into animation. To my eternal relief and gratitude, they accepted my pitch for the article discussing Heidi’s opening, and I’ve since gone on to write three articles that have been published for the blog (along with a bunch of others I’d like to clean up and release in the near future).

That did exactly what I was hoping for, because I’ve since started watching all kinds of animation again. I finally got round to classic or well regarded films such as Fritz the Cat, Horus: Prince of the Sun and Hugo the Hippo, and I’ve lately been watching shorts by fascinating animators ranging from Terry Gilliam and Robert Sahakyants to Anete Melece and Tomoyoshi Joko.

TV shows have been a particular delight for me. I briefly got into the exceptionally well-made comedy Moeru! Onii-san during the summer. I’ve checked out various classics of British stop-motion like Postman Pat, The Trap Door and Paddington Bear. I took the plunge into experiencing MTV’s animated efforts with Downtown and Daria (the latter of which has become one of my all-time favourite shows, and I will one day find the words to articulate my love for it).

However, while I enjoy writing articles and watching cool cartoons, what matters most to me is reuniting with the community of the World Animation Discord. I’d left that Discord a while back because of a general attempt to distance myself from social media, but I figured it would be a good idea to pop back in there to promote the Heidi article. In doing so, I met up with a whole bunch of people I used to talk with, and got to know new folks that I’ve since come to consider as friends or acquaintances.

This especially matters because at the time, I was in a pretty bad place when it came to talking to people. I’ve historically been terrible at keeping in contact with people, and I’d just started attending a course in a college attended by over 20,000 students. Having social anxiety and sensory overload issues is tricky enough, but when there’s so many people around you and no time to get to know any of them because everyone’s got different schedules, it became something of a nightmare.

Trying to navigate a massive sea of strangers on a daily basis, with very little socialization outside of my own family, I never felt more alone. But talking to folks on the WAD again helped lift me out of that mindset, since I could talk to people about anything and everything. There’s always something of interest to learn by talking to that community, and there are countless days where simply talking about a music track or a funny cartoon drawing made it immensely better.

Chatting with people has helped me to stay interested in cartoons, along with various other topics and areas of interest, and to keep a sense of perspective and optimism during times where that can easily be lost. Heck, it’s even encouraged me to do things I’d never seriously considered doing. I’m not a good draughtsman, nevermind an animator, but I’ve actually done animation for projects that originated from the community.

I did a pair of scenes for NAveryW’s “Jack and the Beanstalk” cartoon. I wrote the script, voiced the dialogue and did some of the animation for “The Haunted Duck”, a short cartoon made by Nobaddy, myself, gammaton32, Natalie, RandolphM, and ProwertheDrower within three days – just to prove we could do it. Most recently, I animated a quick cute cartoon as part of the WADvent Caldendar project, where a short holiday-related cartoon would be posted every day from the 12th to the 24th of December.

I wouldn’t consider myself even a Z-list animator in terms of drawing quality and motion, but what matters is that I’ve actually done any of this at all. And I want to keep doing it! I’ve got a script written for a short I’d like to put together during the next year, and I’ve got a couple of ideas for other shorts that I might try out. I don’t know if they’ll happen, or even if they’ll be any good, but I want to try.

Perhaps it’s petty to look back on the year that’s passed and only think about the cool cartoons I’ve watched and how many awesome people I’ve talked with or made friends with. I get that, I really do. But that’s how I feel, and maybe that speaks to how much that means to me. That after everything that’s happened, the only memories and feelings I’ve continually held onto are those discoveries and connections. And I want to hold onto them going forward into the new year.

Before I go, I’d like to thank pretty much everybody.

I’d like to thank Nobaddy, ibcf and AnimeGolem for even letting me publish articles to begin with, as well as for giving constructive feedback that has resulted in better articles and a hopeful improvement on how I write overall.

I’d like to thank the countless members of the World Animation Discord for being there to chat with, and for giving me the inspiration to discover and do things I’d never have thought to do otherwise.

I’d like to thank everyone who has ever interacted with my work, both on here and in my countless other pursuits – whether it’s my old YouTube videos, my HG101 reviews, my music, or even my blasted fanfiction. Even if you never reached out to me, I hope that any of it meant something to you.

I’d like to thank my family and friends, both online and offline, for being such awesome people and for always making me reconsider my perspective or get passionate about things.

Thank you all, and have a wonderful New Year.

FrDougal9000 writes for hardcoregaming101.net as Apollo Chungus. When he isn’t writing about video games, he is cultivating his love of animation that’s only increased over the last few years as he’s explored the wide, weird and wonderful world of the medium.

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