Homestar Runner

From Academic Kids

This article is about the Internet cartoon series. For the character and series' namesake, see Homestar Runner (character)
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Homestar_Runner_logo.png
The Homestar Runner logo

Homestar Runner (often abbreviated HR, HSR or H*R) is a cartoon series which is generally distributed as Macromedia Flash animations available from HomestarRunner.com (http://www.homestarrunner.com/). It mixes an absurdist sense of humor similar to that found in H.R. Pufnstuf with copious references to video games from the 1980s and 1990s.

The series has built a loyal following by updating nearly every Monday with new short movies, games, and music. There are plentiful opportunities for interaction on the site, and the animations are filled with hidden Easter eggs: if a certain area on the page is clicked at the right time, an additional cartoon or screen will appear. These eggs typically include short cartoons, video clips, pictures, songs, or (occasionally) alternate versions of the site's main page.

Cartoons nominally center on Homestar Runner, a clumsy and unintelligent athlete. The antagonist Strong Bad, however, is often more popular among fans, and the series of cartoons in which he answers email from viewers is the most prominent feature of the site. Strong Bad works closely with his sidekick The Cheat and his muscle-bound older brother Strong Mad to prey on Strong Bad's rotund and constantly-depressed younger brother Strong Sad. Several other characters fill out the world: Homestar's hippie girlfriend Marzipan, his best friend Pom Pom, their coach Coach Z, local businessman Bubs, the King of Town, the Poopsmith, and the surreal character Homsar.

Although originally conceived as a book written for children, the series is most popular with (and has been gravitating toward) college students and young adults. By focusing on Internet distribution, the animated series has been able to reach a large audience to which they wouldn't have access otherwise.

Contents

History

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Homestar Runner and Coach Z interrupting a night-time caper by Strong Bad and The Cheat.

Homestar Runner came to life in 1996 with two bored college students. Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel were working that summer in jobs related to the 1996 Summer Olympics. On a day off, they visited a bookstore where they found that the state of children's books was dismal.

Intending to rectify this, they wrote the original story The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest. This story featured Homestar Runner, Pom Pom, Strong Bad, The Cheat, and quite a few characters that soon disappeared from the Homestar Runner world. This hand-drawn book was the only incarnation of the characters for several years.

By 1999, Mike and Matt Chapman (who typically call themselves "The Brothers Chaps") were learning Flash and looking for something to practice on. Digging out the old children's book provided a solution. By January 2000, homestarrunner.com was live. Matt Chapman provided the voices of the male characters, while Missy Palmer (then Mike's girlfriend, now his wife) did that of Marzipan.

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Strong Bad preparing to answer his email on the Lappy 486.

The site grew slowly at first, but by mid-2001 it began to take off with the first Strong Bad email. The number of visitors to the site grew, and by March 2003 the site had outgrown its original host. Currently, merchandise sales pay for all of the costs of running the website as well as living costs of the creators, whose retired parents manage many of the business aspects.

"The Brothers Chaps" have a creative freedom that they would not have doing a regular TV show, because they run their own website and refuse to put their characters onto the small screen. Originally, they developed Homestar Runner as a labor of love, and for their own amusement. Though the site sells Homestar merchandise, it has no commercials—though a few of the cartoons parody advertising, with products like "Fluffy Puff Marshmallows".

Though the internet was initially the only mechanism for viewing Homestar Runner, the first 100 Strong Bad e-mails were released on DVD on November 8, 2004. The strongbad_email.exe box set retained the various hidden features of the Macromedia Flash originals. Also included were three unreleased emails, two music videos, commentary tracks by the characters and their creators, and other features.

Sub-cartoons

The Homestar Runner world features several sub-cartoons and spin-offs. These cartoons take place outside the normal Homestar Runner world, and the main characters of the normal cartoons do not necessarily appear in them, and when they do, it is often not in the same way they appear in the Homestar Runner world.

Teen Girl Squad

Teen Girl Squad is a crudely drawn comic strip narrated by Strong Bad. It began after Strong Bad received an email asking him to make a comic strip. The comic parodies four archetypal high-school clichs, which is evident in their nondescript names: "Cheerleader," "So-And-So," "What's-Her-Face," and "The Ugly One." In their quest to become unique and popular, the characters are bland and monotonous. Though they are just stick figures, Strong Bad often subjects them to gruesome and unusual deaths.

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes is another cartoon created by Strong Bad in response to an email request. The cartoon, designed to be as "kah-razy" as possible, takes place on a surreal multi-colored plane resembling a disco dance floor.

The central character Sherlock, "a cross between a cow and a helicopter" who communicates through a series of weird noises, spends each episode trying to catch a worm that crawls in and out of the ground. Other characters include "Eh! Steve", an anthropomorphic polygon that appears once an episode to deliver his eponymous catch phrase, and the Wheelchair (voiced by Bubs), whose goal in life is to destroy Eh! Steve. Strong Bad also placed himself in the cartoon, although his head is an old Casio VL-Tone keyboard. Whenever he becomes angry, it plays the demo (the German folk song "Unterlander's Heimweh").

1936

Some cartoons take place in an "old-timey" setting, circa 1936, with most of the Homestar Runner characters having direct counterparts in the 1936 universe. These cartoons are in black and white with grainy sound, and parody the distinctive style animated cartoons of the 1920s and 1930s.

One such cartoon features an original song by the comedic a cappella ensemble Da Vinci's Notebook.

Stinkoman 20X6

Stinkoman 20X6 is yet another cartoon in response to an email, asking Strong Bad to create a Japanese Cartoon. The main character, Stinkoman, is a stylized version of Strong Bad with blue hair, and goes around looking for "some fighting or maybe a challenge." Also featured are the stylized versions of Homestar ("1-Up") and Pom-Pom ("Pan Pan," colored like a panda).

The year 20X6 is in reference to the ambiguous year 20XX in which the Mega Man series takes place. The Stinkoman video game is also similar to the early Mega Man games. The series also draws inspiration from Dragon Ball Z, Ranma , Neon Genesis Evangelion, Street Fighter 2 and others.

The Stinko Man theme song is the first stage tune of the NES-game Rad Racer with "neo-Japanese" lyrics.

Powered by The Cheat

Some sketches are portrayed as being drawn by The Cheat, who has his own distinctive animation style. It has appeared in many forms, such as in Strong Bad e-mails, cartoons, even its own welcome page. It is rumored that the Brothers Chaps tried this animation before settling on the current type. In Powered by The Cheat segments, Mike Chapman provides intentionally poor imitations of his brother Matt's normal voice work.

Note that these animations clue us into The Cheat's fantasies and insecure personality. Strong Bad Email #87 ("Mile") is an ideal example of what he most desires yet cannot possibly possess. The Cheat shamelessly elevates his status in the eyes of others through praise given by his boss Strong Bad while Marzipan finally gives him the attention and affection he has been craving. (Notice that the two rarely exchange words outside of a fabricated Flash universe.)

Cheat Commandos

The Cheat Commandos are a line of action figures that all resemble The Cheat wearing different outfits. The Commandos are an extensive parody of the popular '80s version of the G.I. Joe dolls and cartoon. As with G.I. Joe, the Cheat Commandos figurines are all nearly exactly the same; the cartoon has silly dialogue, bad animation, mindless action sequences, and zero characterization; and the entire series exists to sell merchandise (The Cheat Commandos theme song even states, "Buy all our playsets and toys!").

The Cheat Commandos fight an evil villain known as Blue Laser (or Blue Lazer), a clear parody of G.I. Joe's arch-nemesis Cobra, and its leader Cobra Commander (known in the UK as "Red Laser").

Holiday Specials

Several episodes have been dedicated to special days of the year. For example, every Halloween a cartoon is released that features all the characters in costume celebrating some traditional aspect of Halloween (such as ghost stories, trick-or-treating, or pumpkin carving). On April Fools' Day 2005, fans were greeted with a page which stated that fans would be required to purchase a membership to continue viewing the site. The page contained a full "Tour" which parodied paid membership websites. It also featured 3 short clips (Homestar talking; a Strong Bad email segment; and a Teen Girl Squad/Sweet Cuppin' Cakes crossover episode) and a "trial version" game.

Most holiday cartoons are archived on the Toons page and can be accessed using the "Holiday" button on the top right of the remote.

Puppet Stuff

Some sketches use real-life puppets of Homestar, Strong Bad, and The Cheat.

Online Video Games

Homestar Runner offers a variety of online games that feature one or more of their characters. The first games were simple in nature and are now found under Super Old Games-n-Such. Some of these games include "Homestar Talker", which allows you to make Homestar say various sentences, and "Spin n' Say", a variation on the popular children's toy of the same name.

More recent games are comparatively more complex and interesting. The first notable game is "Peasant's Quest", an adventure game featuring a young peasant named Rather Dashing, who vows to kill the destroyer of his cottage: Trogdor. The game is similar to the original King's Quest games of the early 1980s. The most recent addition to the website is "Stinkoman 20X6", a spoof of the Mega Man video games.

A link to all these games are found on any of the main pages.

TMBG Music Videos

Recently, the Brothers Chaps have partnered up with the rock band They Might Be Giants to produce a music video for their song "Experimental Film," available on the website. Other TMBG songs have found their way onto the website in the form of 'Puppet Jam,' a subset of 'Puppet Stuff,' where Puppet Homestar rocks out with TMBG. The TMBG web site has hinted that more videos are in production.

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