It was either fourth or fifth grade when I was first exposed to StickDeath.com, which at the time contained simple GIF animations of stick figures getting brutally maimed, disfigured and murdered. It was basically the coolest thing ever on the Internet (but I can’t recommend the site now, as it’s upgraded to fancy Flash animations, and the creator’s more racist and xenophobic leanings are shining through).
A decade or so later, extremely violent stick figure shorts are still making waves on the web. There are even scores of Flash video games based on stick figure gore on UGOPlayer.com and NewGrounds.com. The Atom.com series, Stickman Exodus brings a classical perspective to age-old stick figure figure violence.
Created by Waverly Films, Stickman Exodus is based on the journey of a group of stick figures in a middleschooler’s notebook. In an allegory for monotheistic religion, the 2D, graphite crew has somehow gained consciousness and begins to understand that their lives are controlled by the whims of one creator, “The Great Doodler.”
With their newfound free will, the stick figures aims to find the “promised page” – a mythical land where the The Great Doodler no longer has control over the environment. It’s a story with obvious biblical and classical overtones told in an episodic format much like Homer’s Odyssey (they must defeat monsters, pass obstacles and interpret messages all along their journey).
By making a kid drawing in his notebook the basis for stick figure violence, the series becomes more enjoyable than its predecessors in the genre. Instead of presenting random violence for the sake of humor, Stickman Exodus tries to capture the imagination of a adolescent bored in class, something we can all identify with. I love episode three, where the notebook is taken by a younger girl, who’s cutesy bears and and unicorns go to battle with the more malevolent creations of the notebook’s owner.
Stickman Exodus seems like a departure from most of Waverly Films’ productions (including commercials, music videos and other short), most of which have well-produced, live-action film and odd, conceptual themes. Their music videos for indies bands like My Morning Jacket, LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture especially include beautiful, realist cinematography and odd narratives. Though the Channel101 show, Puppet Rapist does share a similar premise of casting pleasant childhood staples in sinful roles.
The series is the most conventional work I’ve seen from the Brooklyn-based crew. Stickman Exodus is incredibly violent and often profane, but it has a Saturday morning cartoon quality hokiness to a lot of the jokes and characterizations (FYI, while there is a lot of violence, I think Ep. 4, “Sex Ed” is the only one that is really NSFW). The narrative also feels standardized: a straightforward episodic journey toward freedom for a bunch of outcasts. But this all isn’t necessarily a negative thing. It actually lends well to the show, allowing the viewer to make more associations to the children’s cartoons it’s meant to parody.
And the production is definitely up to the level of the Waverly Films catalog. The animation is expressive and lively, the voice acting is funny and the soundtrack for each installment adds to the general absurd grandeur of the show.
Check out all six episodes of the first season of the series at Atom.com.