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Summary:

If you think about most of the videos that qualify as “YouTube hits,” the majority of them have certain keywords in common: “gimmick”, “funny”, “DIY”. But none of those keywords apply to Afterworld, which is currently the number three Most Subscribed To director’s channel on YouTube. […]

If you think about most of the videos that qualify as “YouTube hits,” the majority of them have certain keywords in common: “gimmick”, “funny”, “DIY”. But none of those keywords apply to Afterworld, which is currently the number three Most Subscribed To director’s channel on YouTube. Considering that slots 1 and 2 are occupied by the BBC and CBS, the computer-animated apocalypse series is almost certainly the most watched narrative drama being produced for the web right now.

afterworld

So why is Afterworld so successful? The fact that there’s nothing else like it currently on the web has to be part of the appeal. The stilted, dissolve-heavy animation style (produced through a combination of Poser and AfterEffects) recalls early-’90s Japanimation-meets-Second Life. The story (which follows Russell, a 30-ish white guy who wakes up one morning to discover that 99 percent of the Earth’s population has been wiped off the planet) seems to be original––it’s not in any way spoofy or even self-reflexive.

The storytelling style breaks the old “show don’t tell” film school rule pretty drastically––the soundtrack is virtually wall-to-wall narration, and as the animation style precludes the characters from engaging in any serious movement or action, most episodes play like spoken word with illustrations.

There are eight episodes of Afterworld currently on YouTube, and if you watch them back-to-back, what’s most striking is the series’ complete lack of humor. This is not X Files-style sci-fi, with banter and quips; nor does it come from the Buffy school of action-packed, supernatural mythology delivered with a major wink. Russell spends at least half the series ruminating in total sincerity on big issues like evil and loneliness (typical revelation: “The real villain is nothing more than human nature!”), whilst staring mournfully off to the left of the screen, his glasses catching the reflection of campfire or raindrops.

In willful defiance of the tropes laid out both by contemporary genres and pretty much every other video on YouTube, the creators of Afterworld have dared to make a web series seemingly devoid of irony. In this cultural climate, that kind of gamble is incredibly brave.

Afterworld is featured on and funded by Bud.tv, Anheuser Busch’s not exactly thriving online advertainment video portal, where it stands out amidst more conventional, fratboy-tastic content, such as the campy makeover show, What Girls Want.

Super-straight faced sci-fi doesn’t immediately come to mind as a natural fit for such a party-centric brand, but the counter-programming has worked like gangbusters–the series’ YouTube success is the one bright spot on Bud.Tv’s otherwise dismal track record.

According to Afterworld‘s website, the series is intended as “a fully-immersive, interactive science fiction series…A new kind of computer-animated entertainment that goes deeper, blending video games, graphic novels and anime into one dynamic experience.”

I’m not sure what that means; are users already helping to determine the course of the narrative, or will their input be required at some point in the future? The current website doesn’t offer any additional information, and I was unable to view the Afterworld page at its corporate home (Bud.Tv’s age check system did not accept my assurances that I am over 21). In a way, it doesn’t matter––the people have already spoken through their subscriptions. Whether or not other content creators will listen remains to be seen.

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  1. Vidiocy » New NewTeeVee Review: Afterworld Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    [...] Today on NewTeeVee, I take a look at Afterworld, the absurdly successful animated apocalypse series funded by Bud.tv. I would embed an episode here, but Anheuser Busch’s social media experts have disabled embedding on their most popular series. So, instead, here’s a mummy feeding ducks: [...]

  2. Now this is something which could cross over into the mainstream – given our obsession with gore. I think the peeps behind this series might be ready for an evening with M. Night Shaymalan.

  3. Nomadishere : Seeker of Truth » Blog Archive » links for 2007-04-18 Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    [...] NewTeeVee » Karina’s Capsule: Afterworld (tags: afterworld web.tv tv television shows videos) [...]

  4. It’s a nice show, but you’ve got your stats all wrong. Afterworld is #3 for shows subscribed to This Month. Across all time, it’s only #96. LonelyGirl15 has over 15 times as many subscribers.

    http://www.youtube.com/members?t=a&p=1&s=ms&g=3

    The notion that it’s “almost certainly the most watched narrative drama being produced for the web right now” is completely wrong. LG15 outclasses it by an order of magnitude.

  5. Karina Longworth Thursday, April 19, 2007

    Adrian: maybe my wording was a little off, but I also didn’t intend to reference the whole of YouTube history. If Afterworld is the number 3 most subscribed to show this month, and LonelyGirl is not on that chart, that leads me to believe that it’s more popular than LonelyGirl “right now.”

  6. I went to view the first few episodes on YouTube…I didn’t know what to think at first but in the end I wanted to know more about Afterworld. GREAT story line … it’s nice to see something fresh in the media world then cliche reality shows! Does anyone know when the rest of the episodes will be aired?

  7. Brent Friedman Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    As of today, the first 10 episodes (of 130 episodes in Season One) are on YouTube and BudTV. Starting in early-May, new episodes of Afterworld will air Mon-Fri on BudTV. Then, staring in mid-May episodes will air daily on our website, http://www.afterworld.tv, which will also offer additional content, branching storylines, forums, fan fiction opportunities, contests, casual games, downloads and more. If reaction remains positive, Season Two will be rolled out early next year…

    Brent Friedman
    Creator/Producer
    Afterworld

  8. Hey Brett, will you still be posting the videos to YouTube? I’m having trouble signing up via bud.tv.

  9. Brent Friedman Friday, May 4, 2007

    Yes, we will still be posting videos on YT. We said new episodes would roll out “sometime in May” because there were a few technical issues which had to be dealt with before we could commit to an exact date. But there should be a new dispatch from the AW crew today, laying out the future roll out plan of content. To save you the trip, though, new episodes will be be rolling out daily starting May 14th. Stay tuned…

  10. ur2lgt2kwit Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    I really enjoy this new show!! It has a great story line and the epidsodes leave you wanting more!! I would highly recommend this series to anyone!!

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