"How'd This Get Online?"
How'd This Get Online? (HTGOL) started out as a crudely animated YCDTOTV clone but developed its own legs as production commenced. The short series premiered on March 21, 2000 with a new episode delivered via the show's web site each Saturday morning. HTGOL had a feature story written about it on about.com and was mentioned in Animation Magazine, touted as "the first original internet cartoon series that runs the length of a standard TV show (22 minutes)."
In November of 1999, Ric de Barros and Chris Gough (webmasters of YCDTOTV.com) were brainstorming ways to expand the official YCDTOTV web site with more multimedia. Because Ric had already animated scenes from YCDTOTV using the cast members' likenesses as they appeared in You Can't Do That In Comics, they decided to develop an online animated version of YCDTOTV called You Can't Do That Online.
The two quickly threw together a trailer and began writing scripts for the series. "The drawings were less than spectacular," recalls Ric, who drew all of the characters and sets. "Neither of us really knew how to draw, but South Park was at its peak because of its simplicity when we produced this show, so it all kind of worked out as we were developing the content."
"We wrote the first couple of scripts during the holidays of 1999, and by January, we were ready to start production," Chris says. "But we felt that in order for this the series to really fly, Les Lye would have to be part of it, because you can't get just anyone to play Barth or Senator Prevert."
The duo decided to press their lucks and ask Les Lye, who played every adult male character on the original series, if he would be willing to participate, but he had to decline per the guidelines of his actor's union, so they regrouped and decided to scratch the YCDTOL idea in favor of something more original. With reality TV in its prime, they chose to make the show more about the backstage antics of the cast with the "skits" from their low-budget online show as segues to move the story along.
"YCDTOTV was sort of like that also," Ric explains, "but we expanded the concept by writing full-blown behind-the-scenes storylines, and we also added continuity by having each episode's plot evolving from what happened in the episode before it."
With changes to show's format came changes to the scripts that were written. As Chris recalls, "we had to write a completely new premiere episode to establish the new format, but we had already written pretty solid material for the first two episodes and didn't want to completely toss it, so we just moved the pilot episode to number three and left the second one in place with very little rewriting, which is why those two episodes are the most like YCDTOTV."
But there was another problem, all of the sets from YCDTOTV had been replicated for the animated production. "I had drawn a ton of sets from YCDTOTV," Ric remembers, "and I was a complete amateur. It took me probably ten times longer to draw something than someone who was a real artist or animator, so we left them in place and kind of joked in the scripts that they were left over sets from a previous show."
By the time they wrote episodes four and five, they felt that they should probably stop using the YCDTOTV sets since their show had gone a totally different direction, so they took a short break from releasing new episodes to write and produce the first HTGOL episode with all original sets. It was during this time that they analyzed the web traffic and message board complaints that it became apparent that the public was not yet ready for streaming video. It was decided to cease production during the development of episode six.
"Our show was way ahead of its time in a couple of ways. One - we were in our early twenties and not yet mature enough to handle it, and two - we started developing in the age of dial-up internet access and almost ten years prior to YouTube," Ric states. "Despite the Animation Magazine plug, it was hard for us to find an audience that could stream the high quality episodes. We had a 'dial-up version' available but so many frames were dropped in the rendering that it was unbearable to watch. "