“But, but I’m lactose intolerant!”
“Really? Well, let’s see if you’re fist-tose intolerant!”
Where cartoons and their movies are concerned, the fan is boss. Well, maybe they are the line manager; they don’t have all the say (farewell once more, Futurama). Fans can shoot a series into legend (South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut), instil life into an already-dead show (Family Guy, Futurama), visit a deathbed for a respectful chuckle (The Simpsons Movie, The Drawn Together Movie) and straight-up fund the heck out of a film, as seen most recently with Dick Figures: The Movie.
For those not in the know, Dick Figures is a popular 2-5 minute stick-figure web series created by Ed Skudder and Zack Keller and is distributed on YouTube with Mondo Media, who also bring us Happy Tree Friends. The show follows Red and Blue (voiced by the creators, respectively), two dysfunctional friends as they embark on ridiculous quests each episode or simply find themselves in an absurd sketch ranging from camp counselling to accepting a series of tests from Zeus.
In May 2012 Skudder and Keller took to Kickstarter with a request: to make a 30-minute film they needed $250,000, and they asked nicely of their hundreds of thousands of fans for a helping hand. 46 days later fans had pledged $313,411. And now Earth has been graced with a gloriously face-melting 73-minute movie that is unreservedly awesome.
There is no doubt that if a studio had actually (and miraculously) backed a Dick Figures movie it would have been compromised to no end. However, with the freedom of crowd-funding and self-distribution Skudder and Keller’s feature gets to be just as funny, just as profanity-laden and just as unconditionally stupid as they (and we) want it, and it’s all the better for it.
Incidentally, I’ll be the first to admit that I was sceptical of a Dick Figures movie. In short energetic bursts Dick Figures’ wit, pop-culture referencing and cartoon-y ridiculousness works. But if you have ever sat down and watched all 40 episodes back-to-back you would likely have found yourself as distracted as Red, suddenly surfing the internet for the perfect boobs or wandering to the kitchen to steal your housemate’s last burrito. However, Skudder and Keller are obviously much smarter than their inane show lets on as the movie is not just 73 minutes of interchangeable sketches but an actual film with a fleshed out story that focuses on friendship and love (that feeling where you have a boner) in a way that is almost serious.
With the plot driving the film (Blue and Red are sent on a quest by Raccoon to retrieve The Sword of Destiny in order to acquire the perfect gift for Blue’s girlfriend, Pink) the eclectic action and comedy we are used to gets to ride shotgun without feeling like a draining overindulgence. The consistent – but still kinetic – pace allows for newcomers to be entertained by this weird animal without being put off by its absurdity whilst also allowing regular viewers to relish in the abundance of series call-backs from Kitty Amazing to Fang Angels that are littered throughout dialogue and background jokes with a casual-ness that any fan of David Zucker or Matt Stone and Trey Parker will surely admire.
In the age of 3D This and $500m budget That, Dick Figures is one of the coolest breathes of bee fart there is. On a budget of $313k Skudder and Keller give us a film with a thumping heart that never gets sentimental, a multi-vehicular chase sequence far superior to The Matrix Reloaded’s and – most importantly – they prove that with the right fan-power, movie-making can be uncompromised and available to all at a whim. There might just be more to Youtube and crowd-funding than Fred and a gloomy Zach Braff after all.
Dick Figures: The Movie is available to rent or buy online. Find out how you can watch or purchase it here, or if you want to watch it free it is being released in weekly installments on YouTube here.