It’s easy to forget that we didn’t always live in a time where the internet was a music, meme, and video producing machine. The young internet definitely had some growing pains before becoming a seriously important avenue for entertainment. And, in a time before the likes of YouTube and Vine, there was the crown jewel of web content: Homestarrunner.com.
The website, started by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman in 2000, features not only an online cartoon series, but an entire world of games, videos, and endless clickability. The entire concept for the Flash series series began with the two using Mario Paint, an image/animation editing software of sorts for the Super Nintendo. (Think Microsoft Paint meets Windows Movie Maker, two of my personal favorites).
While the animation would improve from the early Mario Paint days, the characters from that early cartoon were turned into one of the first (and one of the greatest) online web series.
In a time where internet content was mainly the miscellaneous randomness of Frog In A Blender or Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Homestar Runner was a site that gave us fun and interesting characters in hilarious short videos. It was the equivalent of the Simpsons for the internet age, an animated show that was ahead of its time using sharp humor that appeals to various age groups.
Just by clicking around the website, you immediately feel the charm the creators were going for. This is seen in the various iterations of the homepage, with everything from a children’s book to an “edgy reboot” look.
One particularly popular part of the site is Strong Bad emails, where the eponymous character would answer actual emails from people, albeit while making fun of their names and spelling. This spanned some of the most popular staples of the series, such as Dangeresque and Trogdor The Burninator.
(It makes more sense if you’ve watched them).
Something particularly amazing about the website is the complete lack of ads. Since its inception, the Brothers Chaps (as they like to be called) maintained a clean, ad-free website and only made money from Homestar Runner merchandise.
In addition to hosting creative cartoons and games, Homestarrunner.com is a celebration of the freedom of internet content. Unlike the shackles a cartoon show on a major network would face, they could produce the kind of show they wanted to do, free of time constraints or corporate overseers. In fact, that’s a major reason that the brothers resisted an offer to bring the show to Adult Swim.
The show regularly updated throughout the 2000s, but took a break toward the end of the decade. In the meantime, Matt Chapman worked on the critically acclaimed Gravity Falls and the two now produce comedic shorts for the Disney XD channel.
While the site may not be as active as it once was, I can’t express how much love and respect I have for Homestar Runner. The site remains largely the same as the first time I viewed it at the age of twelve, and the fact that I still laugh like I did thirteen years ago while exploring the site definitely shows how much respect the Brothers Chaps deserve.