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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Coming to a monitor near you
By BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy
He's abusive, obnoxious and unsuitable for children, but his pedigree is impeccable.
Next month, Angry Kid, the latest creation by the makers of Wallace and Gromit is coming to a screen near you ... or should that be a computer monitor.
In a move that has raised eyebrows in the film industry, the series of 25 one-minute films will be broadcast exclusively over the internet.
Aardman Animations has struck a deal with the US-based web broadcaster AtomFilms, which will make the first episode available for streaming from midnight on Sunday 7 May.
The signing of seven times Oscar-nominated Aardman is a mark of how important the internet has become in giving airtime to film makers.
AtomFilms, which has broadcast about 1,000 mini films since it launched a year ago, is one of a new breed of web sites dedicated to showing "entertainment shorts".
In the United States the market is bursting with activity, as scores of wannabe film directors, animators and performers by-pass traditional broadcasters to showcase their work on the net.
The UK is about six months behind, says Michael Comish, managing director of Atom Films Europe.
Among the most ambitious projects this side of the Atlantic is a pilot sitcom called The Junkies.
Written by acclaimed comedy duo David Quantick and Jane Bussman and starring well-known TV names Sally Phillips (Smack the Pony) and Peter Serafinowicz (How Do You Want Me?), the show is available only on the net.
Producer Jess Search says the controversial content - the show is a comedy about heroin addicts - led her and the team to the internet.
"It's very difficult to sit in a room and try to convince a panel that your idea is funny and they should spend maybe £150,000 on making a pilot, especially when its about smackheads" she says.
"But if they can see it first you stand a better chance of getting through."
Without a backer to stump up cash, everything was done on a tight budget and the pilot was made for £3,500.
Response from the public has been "tremendous" and Ms Search is toying with the idea of a full-scale series made for the net rather than TV.
"I'd like to keep it as on online sitcom. The spirit in which it was made was one of 'can do-ism' and it's important to preserve that," she says.
Elsewhere though, the trend on the web is for short films and animations, often only five minutes long.
Traditionally "shorts" were the proving ground of ambitious young film makers keen to get their work recognised. But the demise of cinema "B" movies and the trend for scheduling TV programmes into modular half-hour slots, deprived them of important outlets.
Entertainment sites in the US receive a handful of new films everyday. Some sift out the good from the bad, while others, such as iFilm.com, puts up almost every movie that comes in.
And evidently the "players" in Hollywood are keeping a close watch. One nine-minute movie screened on iFilm, which featured five old ladies passing around a gun in a game of Russian roulette, helped land its writers, Dave Garrett and Jason Ward with a development deal with Fox TV.
Generally, it is coarse humour that does best on the internet, says Mr Comish, pointing out that Atom Films' frog in a blender animation has been downloaded onto 15 million desktops.
Juvenile and tasteless
"Angry Kid is slightly juvenile and tasteless. It plays well to the existing online consumer profile which is 60% male and aged primarily from 16 to 45."
Indeed, the incredible success of Doodie.com, which averages 9.5 million visits a month according to creator Tom Winkler, is testament to the base nature of web films.
Winkler draws daily updates for his site, which features 10-second animations of a character that constantly defecates.
But the raw feel is starting to slip as big names begin to realise the potential. Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks is soon to launch its own entertainment site - Pop.com - and the Time Warner/AOL merger portends to expansion in this field.
Elsewhere, big screen names are getting in on the act. Director Tim Burton has signed a deal with Shockwave to screen five-minute episodes of his animation character Stainboy.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have also signed with Shockwave for a series of short animations while Wedding Singer star Adam Sandler has a role in a hit online cartoon called The Peeper.
Mr Comish's experience at the recent Sundance Film Festival is proof those in traditional media are starting to wake up to a medium which has been described as "Hollywood's Vietnam"
"I think they were a bit surprised by the level of exuberance that the online companies were showing because we were very high profile.
"But they take us seriously because they recognise that, like cable TV in the 80s and 90s, the next big area of growth is the internet."
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