Homestar Runner (body of work)

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The "Homestar Runner" logo

Homestar Runner (abbreviated as H*R, occasionally as HR or HSR) is an animated comedy series produced by The Brothers Chaps (Mike and Matt Chapman), primarily taking the form of short Flash cartoons presented on homestarrunner.com. The series centers on the adventures of a large and diverse cast of characters, headed by the titular Homestar Runner. It uses a blend of surreal and absurdist humor, incorporating inside jokes, satire, and references to popular culture — in particular video games, classic television, and popular music.

Homestar Runner originated in 1996 as a short book parodying children's literature written by Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel. Whilst learning Macromedia Flash, Mike and his brother Matt expanded the concept into a website, which was launched on New Year's Day 2000. While the site originally centered on the title character, the Strong Bad Email series quickly became the site's most popular and prominent feature, with Strong Bad, initially the series' main antagonist, becoming a breakout character. Over the decades, the site has grown to encompass a variety of cartoons and games featuring Homestar, Strong Bad, and numerous other characters. At the peak of its popularity, the site was one of the most-visited sites with collections of Flash cartoons on the web, spreading via word of mouth. The site sustains itself through merchandise sales and has never featured advertisements.

Beginning in 2002, the site featured weekly updates of new toons, as well as interactive games and other site features. After a four-year hiatus beginning in 2010, Homestar Runner returned with a new Holiday Toon on April Fools' Day 2014; afterwards the site has been "updated every someday" on an occasional basis, usually to celebrate holidays. After global support for Flash ended on December 31, 2020, homestarrunner.com has maintained a fully functional website through the Flash emulator Ruffle.

Contents

[edit] History

See also Timeline of Homestar Runner
The Brothers Chaps making the 100th Strong Bad Email, as seen in the DVD feature "Making of Email 100".

[edit] Development

The name "Homestar Runner" originated in the early 1990s. James Huggins, mutual friend of The Brothers Chaps, was imitating a grocery store commercial that made reference to Atlanta Braves second-baseman Mark Lemke. Being unfamiliar with baseball terminology, Huggins ad-libbed that Lemke was "Home Star Runner for the Braves!" In one retelling of the story, Matt remarked that the brothers considered the term Homestar Runner "the best thing we've ever heard!"

In 1996, University of Georgia students Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel visited a bookstore and remarked how "awful" the children's books they saw were; the duo decided to create their own children's book as a gag. They spent a day creating The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest—which introduced Homestar Runner, Pom Pom, Strong Bad, and The Cheat. About five to ten copies were made and shared with friends, as they had no intention to seriously publish it. Later that year, Mike, Matt, and Craig created a short Homestar Runner animation in Mario Paint as a Christmas gift for older Chapman brother Donnie.

[edit] Launch

Mike and Matt moved in together after finishing college, sharing an apartment in Atlanta. Interested in the creative potential of Flash animation, and desiring to work on a project together as they had in their childhood, the brothers returned to the Homestar Runner characters as they taught themselves the program. The website homestarrunner.com was launched in January of 2000, serving as the platform for cartoons and games featuring the characters. Mike and Matt share graphics, animation, and writing duties; Matt voices the majority of the characters (one exception is Marzipan, voiced by Mike's wife Missy Palmer). The site initially focused on short cartoons centering around competitions between Homestar Runner as a heroic character and the villainous Strong Bad, such as tag team wrestling or a jumping jack contest. Focus soon shifted to telling stories about events between competitions, allowing for more variety.

The site grew slowly at first and primarily through word-of-mouth. The Strong Bad Email series, introduced in 2001, proved very popular and generated significant interest in the site. Merchandise sales paid for all of the costs of running the website as well as living costs of the creators, whose retired parents managed many of the business aspects. Their father suggested Matt quit his job (Mike, working as a freelance designer, was already self-employed) to focus full-time on creating Homestar Runner, which he was able to do in 2002.

In a retrospective interview, the brothers considered the period between 2002–2005 to be their most creative and successful, exploring various different media for the shorts and having a large quantity of merchandise. Matt considered a day in February 2004 to be the highlight of the series, having received a demo tape from They Might Be Giants for a song to use in Strong Bad Email different town and a life-sized replica of Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000 producer Jim Mallon on the same day. They also reflected on how Homestar Runner had been a common point of reference over which newly formed couples bonded, and how Joss Whedon incorporated references to Homestar Runner into his television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel as further signs of success.

[edit] Hiatus and Comeback

See also Hiatuses
"You got this, Homestar. This is nothin'."

Through 2010, Homestar Runner remained financially viable for the brothers through sales of related merchandise. Both brothers were married by 2010 and had their children to care for, and they recognized that they would need to find other jobs to support their respective families. When Matt had a second daughter, the two agreed to put the series on hiatus, knowing they would want to come back to it but could not guarantee a time frame. Mike also noted that they had spent nearly ten years delivering a weekly cartoon, and believed that, creatively, they needed a break. No new toons were produced for the site in 2010 through 2013, as The Brothers Chaps worked on other projects.

The site was updated with a new toon, April Fool 2014, for the first time in over three years; the toon acknowledged the length between updates by making the index page look dilapidated. In several later interviews, The Brothers Chaps credit the large positive response to this toon as a major encouragement to continue site updates.

Matt appeared on The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show on July 7, in the first interview with either of the Brothers Chaps in several years. Matt expressed that the Brothers had an interest in "making more stuff, hopefully on a more frequent basis" — borne out with more site activity in October with Fish Eye Lens, Halloween Safety, I Killed Pom Pom (the first full-length Halloween toon since 2009), and the first updates to Quote of the Week, Weekly Fanstuff, and Sketchbook in exactly five years. In the same interview, Matt also mentioned plans for a new Strong Bad Email, a more accessible website redesign, and a Homestar Runner-themed social media account, all of which eventually came to pass.

The @StrongBadActual Twitter account began posting regularly on September 26, 2014; it has since become the most active facet of the Homestar Runner body of work. In a Rolling Stone interview on October 3, The Brothers Chaps specified that they were not planning to return to full-time work on the site due to the stress and deadlines of the former schedule. Rather, they would simply create any new toons at their own pace, closer to every couple of months rather than weekly. 2015 was the true start of the modern pace of updates; there was new content every second month. In the years since, the site has been updated slowly but semi-regularly, with new content every 1-4 months; Halloween toons have been released annually since 2014.

[edit] Site Content

[edit] Characters

See main article: Characters
The Homestar Runner cast, as shown on the Everybody Everybody Poster.

The cartoons nominally center on Homestar Runner, a somewhat dim but good-hearted athlete. The character Strong Bad, however, is often more popular among fans, mostly through his Strong Bad Email cartoons (released near-weekly for several years) in which he answers actual emails from viewers. Strong Bad works closely with his sidekick The Cheat and uses his brother Strong Mad as the muscle in his operations. Together, the three prey on Strong Bad's depressed brother Strong Sad. Many of the site's features — music, games, main pages, characters, etc. — are based on concepts from the Strong Bad Emails.

Several other characters fill out the world of Free Country, USA, where most of the characters live: Homestar's hippie girlfriend Marzipan, whose answering machine is a frequent target for prank callers, his best friend Pom Pom, the verbally challenged Coach Z, local concession stand owner Bubs, and The King of Town and his Poopsmith. Rounding out the cast is Homsar, an odd-speaking character created on account of (and in mockery of) a poorly written email to Strong Bad. Many of these characters have alternate versions.

[edit] Toons

See main article: Toons

From January 2002 to November 2009, new content was added to the website nearly every week, usually on Monday, such as a short, a longer cartoon, a Strong Bad Email, an online Flash game, or real-life merchandise like DVDs and action figures. Strong Bad Email is the most expansive and popular series on the website, and has produced several spin-offs, such as Strong Bad's crudely drawn comic series Teen Girl Squad. The comic parodies four archetypal high-school girls and their equally archetypal quest for attractiveness, popularity, and love, which is continually frustrated by their violent deaths in every issue.

Some other types of cartoons include Marzipan's Answering Machine, toons with little animation in which characters call Marzipan on her answering machine; Puppet Stuff, which uses live action puppets instead of animation; and Powered by The Cheat, poorly animated and voice-acted cartoons created by The Cheat. Some toons feature the characters celebrating holidays, like Decemberween, a holiday similar to Christmas, and Halloween.

The website, built mostly out of Flash animations, is filled with hidden Easter eggs: if a certain area on the page is mouse-clicked at the right time, an additional cartoon or screen will appear. For example, in the Strong Bad Email studying, viewers can view a hidden Web page about a book that Strong Bad mentions. Also, at the end of the email vacation, viewers can click on one of five postcards to hear what Strong Bad thinks of the particular place he has visited.

Some cartoons feature spin-offs like Old-Timey, black-and-white cartoons parodying the style of the 1930s; 20X6, a parody anime cartoon featuring the main character Stinkoman; and Dangeresque, a film series created by Strong Bad.

[edit] Licensing

Because the Brothers Chaps run their own website, they have a creative freedom that they would not have doing a regular TV show. Though the site sells Homestar merchandise, it has no advertisements, and a few of the cartoons parody advertising, with made-up products like Fluffy Puff Marshmallows. Business aspects of Homestar Runner are handled through Harmless Junk, Inc. (often branded as fictional company Cheap As Free).

The Brothers Chaps have frequently worked with other contributors to create additional media such as music CDs (including live performances as fictional bands) and live-action video.

2008 video game Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, produced in partnership with Telltale Games, was the first time that Homestar Runner had been licensed out to a third-party company. In an interview, Matt reflected that the partnership was "the biggest thing that we'd probably [ever] do." Strong Bad also appeared in Telltale's crossover game Poker Night at the Inventory.

Trogdor!! The Board Game was funded by Kickstarter in 2018, co-produced with game designer James Ernest.

In 2020, new Homestar Runner merchandise was created and sold in partnership with Fangamer. Homestar Runner is the first webtoon series that Fangamer has worked with; the collaboration largely featured merchandise designed by creators other than The Brothers Chaps.

[edit] References

Content for the above was taken chiefly from the Wikipedia article for "Homestar Runner" found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestar_Runner. As such, this article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation and CC BY-SA 4.0 licenses.

[edit] See Also

[edit] External links

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