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YouTube is an absolute abyss of weirdness. When you’re looking for something funny, slightly disturbing (in an entertaining way), or just plain strange, you know exactly where to go.
But YouTube wasn’t the first place to find viral videos. In the early 2000s, before YouTube was around, Newgrounds and Albino Blacksheep were havens for strange videos that got to be extremely popular. Forums, humor websites, and even email sharing were popular ways of spreading weird videos.
If you remember those days, you’ll probably remember these videos. They might even make you a bit nostalgic. If you don’t remember those days, you’ll probably just be asking, “WTF?”
1. Tales For The L33t: Romeo and Juliet
The first masterpiece on our list is a Romeo and Juliet story told by Chris Coutts. It first appeared back in 2000 and went viral soon after.
The flash animation retells the story of Romeo and Juliet in l33t (“leetspeak“), an internet language that swaps regular letters for ASCII symbols (numbers and non-letter characters). The video appealed to those who knew leet way too well, and maybe a l33ttle bit to the Shakespeare fans. Give this one a watch and see where you belong — Chris Coutts’ version of Romeo and Juliet will either have you laughing out loud or staring at your computer screen, genuinely confused.
Our next pick is Rejected, a short comedy film by Don Hertzfeldt. It started popping up on the humor-related sites in 2000, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film the same year. (Hertzfeldt went on to earn a reputation for making some really weird animated shorts.)
Calling this cartoon “odd” would be an understatement. It’s a very weird series of short skits that contain not-safe-for-work content and some very, ahem, special jokes. However, it had (and still has) a lot of fans all over the world. Those fans continue to make parodies of the original using the popular one-liners like “My spoon is too big” and “I am a banana.”
3. All Your Base Are Belong To Us
The next video goes back to the early 90s when a 16-bit game called Zero Wing was released. The opening scene is the European release, which included some very poor translations. The phrase “All your base are belong to us” quickly became a catchphrase.
What made it a viral hit, though, was a remix — a flash animation by Jeffrey Ray Roberts uploaded on sites like Something Awful and Newgrounds in 2000 and 2001. Watch it at your own risk. It got stuck in people’s heads then, it will quickly get stuck in yours now.
4. Strindberg and Helium
Strindberg and Helium is a series of brief animated videos created by the members of San Francisco-based comedy troupe Killing My Lobster and animation artist Eun-Ha Paek in 2002.
Follow the adventures of depressed Swedish writer August Strindberg and pink floating balloon Helium. For every gloomy philosophical monolog that Strindberg utters, you get a dose of Helium’s infinite cheer. Helium takes the gloom out of the language by repeating Strindberg’s separate words and almost reversing their meaning.
5. Peanut Butter Jelly Time
Another flash animation that went viral after first appearing on Newgrounds is Peanut Butter Jelly Time by The Buckwheat Boyz. In 2002, it was picked up by several forums and humor sites like Albino Blacksheep and from there spread to the rest of the web.
The video is pretty random: it’s a banana dancing through the whole song. But this piece initiated a number of parodies and remakes, including one on Family Guy:
If none of the above videos made you feel nostalgic, it’s because this is a job for the Badger Badger Badger animation. The cartoon was first featured on Weebls Stuff in 2003. A bunch of dancing badgers, a mushroom, and a snake quickly won the hearts of just about everyone who saw this silliness. The creators state that this animation is not random, but an “absurd look at life because day-to-day life is ridiculous.”
It goes without saying that the song gets stuck in your head immediately and the only cure is this one-hour-long clip of the Badger video on loop.
7. The End of the World
“Well, have a nap… then fire ze missiles!”
Probably the most quotable video on our list, The End of the World was first uploaded to Albino Blacksheep in 2003. This was before the days when everything on the internet was monetized, so Jason Windsor never received any money for his masterpiece, which got millions of views. “WTF, mate,” indeed.
8. Numa Numa
Back in secondary school, I used to think that I was the biggest fan of O-Zone. But the hero of this video is clearly a more enthusiastic lover of Moldovan pop.
Gary Brolsma recorded himself dancing and lip syncing to O-Zone’s Dragostea din tei and uploaded the video to Newgrounds in 2004. The Numa Numa Dance made millions of people smile and quickly went viral.
9. The Llama Song
The Llama song is a good example of how people were creating animations about llamas before it was mainstream. In 2004, a DeviantArt user first uploaded this video of a crazy song with a bunch of pictures illustrating every word sung.
Beyond the llamas, you have people, ducks, and random object to look forward to. Before the video even made it to Newgrounds and Albino Blacksheep, it had about 50,000 views. Remember, that’s before YouTube was around.
10. Charlie the Unicorn
Although Charlie the Unicorn isn’t as early as other examples on our list, this video deserves your full attention. It first appeared on the internet in 2005 and went viral the same year.
According to Time, “Charlie the Unicorn proves that something doesn’t have to make any sense at all to earn a cultlike following.”
Bring Back the 2000s!
If you ever feel like going back in time, give the videos from this list another watch. Just to remind yourself of the good and the weird from the internet history. But before you go (to the Candy Mountain), we’d like to know your thoughts.
How many of these videos did you recognize? What’s your favorite clip from the 2000s? If it’s not already on our list, please, share it with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Africa Studio/Shutterstock