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Animation memes are short animated videos, usually on YouTube, consisting of one or more characters performing a simple act of movement synced to a song. The majority of animations only have several frames, and usually loop until the video ends. Some animation memes are more complex and contain different scenes. The complexity varies based on the skill of the animators creating the meme.
Each "meme" within the general concept of animation memes consists of a single song and a certain movement, established by the creator of the original animation. Once the community was fully developed, original animations were often created for the purpose of being reanimated by other users. Derivative memes take this movement or series of movements and replace the characters with either their own original characters (OCs) or characters from other media. While all fandoms typically have at least one animation meme, those that have a younger population, such as Undertale, are more common. They are especially popular among furries, cosplayers, and the younger amateur artist community.
Animation memes have their roots in the Japanese reanimation memes of the 2000s. The first animation meme is generally considered to be Caramelldansen. Like modern animation memes, the meme mainly consisted of animating different characters to the associated dance. Similar reanimation memes, such as Fukkireta, Hare Hare Yukai, Leek Spin, Just A Bit Crazy and Convenience Store are also roots of the phenomena.
The first animation meme that is most similar to modern-day animation memes is considered to be the Nya Nya Dance, with the original published on June 24, 2009 by webkinzlid, now known as Void Queen. The video consists of a looped animation of a cat character moving their tail with a flashing background, while the song New Day plays in the background.
This animation was then taken and reanimated with a different character by Spottedfire25 on July 7, 2009. This gained more views than the original. The first more animatic-like animation meme (one that had multiple scenes) is considered to be 3's by Flightfootwarrior, with the original being published October 4, 2009.
Several other similar memes sprung up during this time, such as the Step-Turn Dance, Tail Whip, or You Spin Me Right Round. These memes were very prevalent, and were similar to the Nya Nya Dance in that they were short, looped animations with flashing backgrounds. Many videos had some version of "Remake this," beginning the concept of purposeful reanimation (as opposed to reanimation that happened without the original creator's knowledge or bidding).
The term "animation meme" itself, however, was not used until much later around 2015. Previously, animation memes had been referred to solely by their own names, and there was no collective concept of animation memes. It was around 2015 that the animation meme community began growing rapidly. While the first usage of the term "animation meme" is unknown (with many earlier usages simply referring to strange animations in general), the term may have originated from the combination of the separate tags of "animation" and "meme." At the same time, the first compilations (and criticisms) of animation memes began arising, signaling the establishment of animation memes as a concept.
Animation memes developed into their current status. An animator would create an animation based on a song (which can be from a wide variety of genres), and other animators would replicate the animation with their own characters or characters from existing media. Several animators gained fame by doing this, such as the aforementioned Void Queen or LupisVulpes. Some have even gone on to become professional animators. Animation memes, along with Multi-Animator Projects (where animators collaborate on creating a single animation, with the different parts being reminiscent of animation memes), can often be the entirety of content created by a user. Elements like subscriber specials or even Questions and Answers videos come in the form of animation memes (the latter manifesting in the Q&A meme).
Animations were often very simple, often involving the character bobbing up and down while making different faces or poses. Due to the simplicity of making an animation meme, the community attracted many young preteen animators. This was reflected in many ways, such as platforms (FlipAClip was a very common tool due to its simplicity). However, because of this younger demographic, many memes considered edgy (ie. blood and gore) or creepy were created. Many memes were considered cringe (at least in part due to the common appearance of furries), leading to the creation of Cringe Compilations that would garner thousands of views. Due to their poor quality, animation memes were a very easy target. However, there are still many higher quality animation memes with much better animation, and which can gain millions of views. These can have more deviation from the original, since there are more scenes to animate.
Animation memes have often been criticized due to the aforementioned edginess or cringe, as well as their tendency to attract drama due to the younger population. Copying and tracing tend to be major sources of friction. However, animation memes have also been praised as a beneficial introduction to animation. Due to their simplicity, they can be good sources of practice, with many animators greatly improving over time.
The last count of animation memes was in July 2017, where 405 animation memes were recorded. Animation memes are very widespread, and form an important part of the art community on YouTube.
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