You sort of have to love Planet Unicorn – a silly animated web series about a gay kid from the year 2117, who finds a magic lamp and wishes into existence a bright pink planet full of effeminate unicorns, one of which happens to be named Tom Cruise (no relation).
Sure it’s not pushing the sitdotcom genre significantly forward, but it’s a friendly reminder that quick, quirky and well-polished shows can excel on the web, when they’d probably never see the light of plasma screens on TV.
Planet Unicorn was first seen on the old tube on VH1’s Acceptable TV (Tilzy.TV page), a 30-minute television/internet hybrid that each week airs 5 shorts created by Acceptable producers, and one user-generated short that’s received a significant web following. Unicorn was one of those user-generated shows.
It also gained a following at Channel101 (Tilzy.TV page), a popular LA-based web channel (which inspired Acceptable, in fact) that holds monthly screenings where audience voting decides which 5 shows remain in “primetime” and which get cancelled. Unicorn remained in primetime for four episodes until it was just recently canceled after episode 5.
With shades of Zoolander, South Park and My Little Ponies all rolled into one, you can probably understand why Planet Unicorn is such a crowd-pleaser. Certain episode staples include: a hip catchy theme-song (heyy!), coloring-book inspired worlds populated by bright pink waterfalls, smiling suns and talking rocks, and of course visits by Shannon, the 8-year-old gay-boy that always end with his crackily-chant, “I’m gay, Goodbye!” or some derivative thereof. Let’s hope creators Mike Rose and Tyler Spiers and animators Craig Morris and Robert Potter keep pumping out this pop culture gem.
And then there’s Salad Fingers, the spooky David Firth flash series, which could not be further in tone from the fluffy world of Planet Unicorn, yet equally interesting, if at times a bit unsettling, and would also probably never make air on a platform other than the web. Salad Fingers is a skinny green monster with a high British voice, long dangly fingers and a penchant for brushing up against shiny metal objects. He particularly loves rusty spoons, in fact.
It takes a bit getting used to the eerily empty landscapes and Firth’s decision to write all words of dialogue across the screen in shaky letters, yet there’s something so original and actually slightly touching about this bizarre world that I was quickly hooked and watched all seven episodes, which average about 5 minutes long. Check it out for yourself:
I imagine most are reminded of David Lynch (Tilzy.TV page) when watching this series, particularly Eraserhead and some of his earlier animations. And just like Lynch, Firth is able to create truly empathetic characters amidst his surreal, nightmarish environments, simply by giving even his most monstrous creatures familiar human longings.
Because Salad Fingers is so lonely, he is forced to entertain himself and maintain his “sanity” by interacting with finger puppets that he’s created. A dead body he finds on his doorstep quickly becomes a new friend after he hangs him on a hook in the kitchen. It’s not scary or shocking just for the sake of being scary or shocking because there’s real feeling behind the fright, an oddly relatable sadness.
So I definitely recommend Salad Fingers and other Firth animations at Fat Pie, but if you’re prone to nightmares and Twin Peaks still freaks you out, you might want to avoid this gem, and stick to the gay, gliding unicorns, heyyy!!!!