Shadow624 Sprites

News Post New Entry

Looking back on Sprite Animation

Posted by Mr.Video on June 25, 2017 at 1:25 PM

I’ve begun to feel nostalgic for the past, specifically my teenage years when I first got big into spriting and joined Hatena. Recently I rewatched SMBZ and other sprite series, made both in Flash and Flipnote. It really brought me back to that simpler time in my life, back when we all aspired to recreate our sprite series in Flash and we all still had a strong sense of community with one another. Nowadays, what was once a hub for aspiring spriters and animators is more or less just a glorified host for the Chat room for OS and I use. People who used to be regulars eventually just vanished. I guess you can’t expect things to stay the same forever, but still, I can’t help but feel a sense of longing for those times. So in that spirit, I’ve decided to sit down and write about the past, present and future of a hobby I have since given up but still feel very passionate about: Sprite Animation.


Frankly my knowledge on early sprite animation is extremely limited. For me and I assume a lot of members on this site, sprite animation really got it’s start on August 29th, 2006 when you guessed it, Super Mario Bros. Z hit the scene. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but when I first watched the series, I was enamored with it. It really opened a whole new world for me, introducing me to sprite animation and the idea that you could actually write a fan-made story.


Super Mario Bros. Z was and still is a series with very broad appeal. It realized what was once seen to be the impossible dream of Mario and Sonic teaming up. It featured a story that had a sense of gravitas and scale while never straying too far into edgy fanfiction territory and mixed in the ever so popular DBZ action for good measure. It was also the first sprite series that really took full advantage of the Mushroom Kingdom as a setting. It incorporated old locales and obscure characters like the Koopa Bros and Axem Rangers into it’s story. Incorporating all of events of Mario’s past adventures into the story made the world feel much more grand than the typical series fair.


Just on paper it’s easy to see how SMBZ found such a big audience and has such a lasting presence in sprite animation. I could probably make an entire blog post about why SMBZ just works so well. Even today you’ll see fledgling sprite animators credit SMBZ as their main source of inspiration, if it weren’t already obvious from the over-saturation of characters like Mecha Sonic and Basilisx. It’s safe to say SMBZ kickstarted the golden age of sprite animation. But that golden age quickly ended once the plug was pulled on the series in 2012.


After it’s premature end, sprite animators were quick to try and fill the void it left by making their own continuations, sequels and even remakes. None of them made it particularly far to my knowledge. Most of them were also just plain bad to be frank. Eventually, there was a shift in the sort of sprite animations that were being made. People opted to make one off sprite fights and parodies rather than series with an overarching story. This was reflected in some very promising sprite series such as 3-Up and our very own Shadow624’s Cackletta’s Return never going beyond a single episode and the rise of series like One Minute Melee.


Now we’re at the point that I consider to be the Dark Age of sprite animation. The only consistent source of sprite animation comes from Hyun’s Dojo’s One Minute Melee and Screw Attack’s Death Battle, to an extent. Some sprite series have surfaced and found a decent audience for themselves like Mario & Sonic: Worlds in Danger and Super Mario Bros: Heroes of the Stars. I speak only for myself here, but neither one is very good at all in my eyes. I could probably write an entire essay as to why Heroes of the Stars is one of the worst fan series out there, as I’m sure my friends could attest to. Worlds in Danger isn’t offensively bad, but it’s so by the numbers and boring that I can’t find any enjoyment from it.


The recent and excellent Super Mario Bros. Z reboot gave me high hopes that we might once again see a resurgence in sprite animation and kickstart another golden age for the medium. But those hopes were quickly dashed when a year passed and there hasn’t been a single word regarding episode 2. When the reboot was first in works and we got regular updates, I honestly had faith that the series would actually have a consistent upload schedule and would at the very least reach the conclusion of the Mecha Sonic saga. Now I have no faith in seeing anything related to SMBZ again outside of the horrible fanmade continuations that will no doubt begin cropping up again in the future.


Now, what about the future? Well to be honest, I don’t think sprite animation has much of one. Really the only thing keeping the sprite animation in general alive is One Minute Melee and other small animators like XFire. I think the only thing that could really bring new life into the medium is another sprite series that really wows people like SMBZ did so many years ago. Otherwise I can’t see the medium really having much of a presence in the next ten years outside of Heroes of the Stars, which I actually feel might be completed one day for better or for worse. Still, I hope I’m wrong on that front. Though I haven’t dabbled in it outside of the role of viewer for years now, its still a craft I’m very passionate about and want to see flourish again.


Ahem, anyways I think that wraps things up. It wasn’t the most in-depth look into Sprite animation history by a long shot, but I hope it was an interesting read all the same for anyone who came across it. I might write up more sprite related stuff sometime, given that this is what the site was built around to begin with. Thanks for reading.

Categories: None

Post a Comment

Oops!

Oops, you forgot something.

Oops!

The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

Already a member? Sign In

12 Comments

Reply Shadow624
3:30 PM on June 25, 2017 
Maybe the reason people cling to, arguably terrible, series' such as Hero of the Stars and Worlds in Danger is because they just don't have much to compare them to. I'm sure most of them have watched SMBZ, but other series' that may have actually been good, I seriously doubt. By the time the reboot of SMBZ came out, a sense of loyalty was probably born in them for Hero of the Stars to the point where they just can't see anything being better.

I know some people who grew up and were completely obsessed with Homestuck eventually realized that they only liked it because their world view was so limited and they got caught up with everyone elses opinion. Now they look back at it, knowing it wasn't really that good to begin with. I feel like this was will happen to a lot of the people that love Hero of Stars when they learn about things such as continuity, scene composition, and pacing. However, with how much more popular these sub par series are getting over SMBZ, I'm not sure that'll happen anytime soon or ever to the point where it'll even make a difference.

It does really feel like the medium in general has been devolving since the original SMBZ was cancelled. But that might be a pretty ignorant thing to say.
Reply Mr.Video
4:02 PM on June 25, 2017 
Shadow624 says...
Maybe the reason people cling to, arguably terrible, series' such as Hero of the Stars and Worlds in Danger is because they just don't have much to compare them to. I'm sure most of them have watched SMBZ, but other series' that may have actually been good, I seriously doubt. By the time the reboot of SMBZ came out, a sense of loyalty was probably born in them for Hero of the Stars to the point where they just can't see anything being better.

I know some people who grew up and were completely obsessed with Homestuck eventually realized that they only liked it because their world view was so limited and they got caught up with everyone elses opinion. Now they look back at it, knowing it wasn't really that good to begin with. I feel like this was will happen to a lot of the people that love Hero of Stars when they learn about things such as continuity, scene composition, and pacing. However, with how much more popular these sub par series are getting over SMBZ, I'm not sure that'll happen anytime soon or ever to the point where it'll even make a difference.

It does really feel like the medium in general has been devolving since the original SMBZ was cancelled. But that might be a pretty ignorant thing to say.

Yeah, I agree. SMB: HotS and Worlds in Danger came out at just the right time to fill the void that SMBZ left and found an audience. I think people might just be less critical because if you want to get your sprite animated series fix, your choices are limited and they're honestly the best out there. Even if that isn't saying a whole lot.

It just astounds me when people claim SMB:HotS is the new SMBZ, or even better than SMBZ when it really isn't. People are free to their opinions of course, but I haven't watched a single episode that I've legitimately enjoyed outside of the capacity of it being so bad that it's good. And even then, I can't marathon the series like I can with SMBZ just due to how horribly thought out everything is. But yeah, once people grow out of the series, I don't think they'll look back at it favorably outside of a few unintentionally hilarious scenes.

It definitely has devolved. There really hasn't been a sprite animator that has been able to animate extremely well or write a competent story. A lot of the old sprite animators who did impressive stuff in the past have gone MIA too, so I don't have too much hope for sprite animation. I guess all we can do is cross our fingers that AE will work past his numerous issues and get back on the horse. I don't see any other way sprite animation will have another golden age otherwise.
Reply OmegaSword
5:20 PM on June 25, 2017 
Personally for me, I've always had an interest in animation. Ever since I was a young child I liked the idea of it, making horrible stop motion animated videos with a VHS camcorder. SMBZ was something that I ran into after I had started doing sprite animation on flipnote, though I definitely enjoyed it when I first watched it. Looking back on it now, however... I honestly don't feel the same, at least not about the first 3-4 episodes. The animation near the beginning is praised way more than it should be (personally I think it's good, but not great. Certainly not the best), and to be honest I've grown to dislike the concept it introduced. Seeing Mario characters knock each other around just irks me, both because it's unfitting and at this point it's sickeningly over done.

Anyway, I'm glad Hatena existed. It really helped me build my skills with animation, sprite art, and a few other things that will no doubt help in developing games. Even though it was a shit community a lot of the time, it really helped me develop skills. I'll likely never forget it, despite the fact that I've forgotten so much about it already.
Reply Mr.Video
11:52 PM on June 25, 2017 
OmegaSword says...
Personally for me, I've always had an interest in animation. Ever since I was a young child I liked the idea of it, making horrible stop motion animated videos with a VHS camcorder. SMBZ was something that I ran into after I had started doing sprite animation on flipnote, though I definitely enjoyed it when I first watched it. Looking back on it now, however... I honestly don't feel the same, at least not about the first 3-4 episodes. The animation near the beginning is praised way more than it should be (personally I think it's good, but not great. Certainly not the best), and to be honest I've grown to dislike the concept it introduced. Seeing Mario characters knock each other around just irks me, both because it's unfitting and at this point it's sickeningly over done.

Anyway, I'm glad Hatena existed. It really helped me build my skills with animation, sprite art, and a few other things that will no doubt help in developing games. Even though it was a shit community a lot of the time, it really helped me develop skills. I'll likely never forget it, despite the fact that I've forgotten so much about it already.
For me, I really only got into animation after I got Flipnote and started doing my own shitty hand-drawn animations. Ever since then I've had a lot of respect for the art in any form. And yeah, while I still stand by my claim that SMBZ is the best sprite series out there, it's far from perfect. I personally don't think hit it's stride until episode 4-5. Even then the dialogue doesn't feel quite as in character and faithful to the source material as I thought it did. I can also understand you disliking the DBZ elements in the Mario universe. It does sometimes feel a bit excessive and over the top at times. And yeah, today DBZ style action is overdone in sprite animation in general.
Yeah, I'm grateful for Hatena and do miss a lot about it, but it definitely had it's moments. =P
Reply OmegaSword
11:21 AM on June 26, 2017 
It's not the action that got old for me, just the concept of Mario, especially if it's a poorly written crossover, which they pretty much all are. It just got old and not good in my opinion.
Reply [email protected]
11:14 PM on June 27, 2017 
Just wanting to put this out there, the best Hatena ever had is right here. All of us could work together to make that something it needs.

I know on the Sudomeme site, all the sprite animators still there (I think there is like 4 of them or something), talk about how amazing the "old pros" were (Old pros referring to all of you guys and then some).
Reply Mr.Video
3:20 PM on June 28, 2017 
[email protected] says...
Just wanting to put this out there, the best Hatena ever had is right here. All of us could work together to make that something it needs.

I know on the Sudomeme site, all the sprite animators still there (I think there is like 4 of them or something), talk about how amazing the "old pros" were (Old pros referring to all of you guys and then some).

Really? I'm surprised a spriting community is even on Sudomemo, last time I checked it was just flooded with Steven Universe and Undertale AMVs, which were... strange. It's nice to know our old work didn't go down the drain completely. I'd actually be interested in checking that out, if I could find it.
Reply CosmicTornado
10:12 AM on July 10, 2017 
I hold pretty much the same sentiments. When I saw the first episode of the SMBZ reboot I thought for sure the scene was going to come back stronger than ever. But just like when SMBZ first died, the reboot fell back into its grave taking all of the chances for the revival of the "glory days" with it. I haven't given up on my series yet, and I probably won't given how often I get ideas I write down, but it's very discouraging whenever I think about how small of a chance I have to really gain the attention of fans. I'm not saying I really had a chance to make something as loved as SMBZ, but I do want to make something people like. That said, it's a little reassuring seeing everyone here talk about animation and the good old days again. I really missed that
Reply Mr.Video
1:19 AM on July 11, 2017 
CosmicTornado says...
I hold pretty much the same sentiments. When I saw the first episode of the SMBZ reboot I thought for sure the scene was going to come back stronger than ever. But just like when SMBZ first died, the reboot fell back into its grave taking all of the chances for the revival of the "glory days" with it. I haven't given up on my series yet, and I probably won't given how often I get ideas I write down, but it's very discouraging whenever I think about how small of a chance I have to really gain the attention of fans. I'm not saying I really had a chance to make something as loved as SMBZ, but I do want to make something people like. That said, it's a little reassuring seeing everyone here talk about animation and the good old days again. I really missed that

Yeah, the SMBZ reboot was really promising. The animation looked better than ever and there was a lot of communication between AE and the fans. I even dared to hope we might see the fabled Smithy saga one day... But those hopes were quickly dashed, safe to say. :-P
Gaining a following is hard, especially in as niche of a thing as a sprite series. But if something like SMB: Ultimate Warrior can find an audience, I'm confident you can too. It just takes time and effort. I'm glad my being nostalgic helped reassure you, I hope you'll manage to get your series off the ground. If you ever need any help with it, just let me know. I'd be glad to lend a hand.
Reply Zeus
2:22 AM on November 26, 2017 
This was a nice read man. It's hard for me to objectively look at the future of sprite animation without saying something like "of course there is a future for it." I'm not sure if it's a hard pill to swallow or not, but I don't want to think sprite animation will die. I think as long as some sort of sprite creation is around, there will be animation with it. Will it be something like SMBZ? Who knows? It might be really basic animation that isn't looking for a crazy story, just a quick one. I'm not sure.

TL;DR - Hi I'm not dead. As long as sprites are around, animation will be around too.
Reply Mr.Video
11:53 PM on November 30, 2017 
Zeus says...
This was a nice read man. It's hard for me to objectively look at the future of sprite animation without saying something like "of course there is a future for it." I'm not sure if it's a hard pill to swallow or not, but I don't want to think sprite animation will die. I think as long as some sort of sprite creation is around, there will be animation with it. Will it be something like SMBZ? Who knows? It might be really basic animation that isn't looking for a crazy story, just a quick one. I'm not sure.

TL;DR - Hi I'm not dead. As long as sprites are around, animation will be around too.

Hey, long time no see. I agree that Sprite Animation will probably survive, even if it's in a really minuscule capacity. But it's really begun to teeter off, with old hubs like the Spritas basically dying off. But I notice some new animators from time to time. The audience for it just isn't as strong now, which I think partially has to do with Newgrounds' fading popularity.

Oh, by the way; Shad's set up a discord server for all the old Hatena sprite guys to hang out in. Feel free to drop by and say hello! Here's the link if you're interested: https://discord.gg/ySkybQm
Reply Michaelsuppy
9:19 AM on January 12, 2018 

Categories

Webs Counter

Recent Videos

262 views - 0 comments
943 views - 5 comments
911 views - 2 comments