Bipartisan Animated Jab May Be Biggest Online Short Film Ever

Who says this country is divided? Since its launch late last week, hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to view an online Flash animation that takes equally sharp jabs at both lead presidential contenders, George Bush and John Kerry.

"I actually think this might be the biggest short film ever on the Internet, because so many people have broadband now," marvels Megan O'Neill, director of acquisitions at AtomFilms, the exclusive online distributor of "This Land," a goofy animated romp featuring the Pres and his main contender exchanging zingers to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land."

"You finally did it. You killed our server," read the home page yesterday afternoon for JibJab Media, the Santa Monica-based animation studio behind the Web wunderkind. Despite the technical hassle, surely brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis are more than happy with the blessing in disguise. After all, according to AtomFilms, the Web cartoon had been viewed over one million times on the AtomFilms site by yesterday. Until JibJab Media's server crashed, the animation was also available to view on the studio's site--which clocked more than 200,000 visitors on Friday, according to comScore Networks. JibJab Media claims to have had more than one million site visitors by the time the overload occurred.



"The real genius of this piece," suggests O'Neill, "is that this is attracting people of all ages," rather than the typical short Web film audience of 18- to-34-year-old males.

Good-humored folks from both sides of the fence (as well as those teetering in the middle or far off from it) can find something to appreciate in "This Land," from a risqué view of "pinko commie" Kerry in a black leather sadomasochistic getup to "stupid dumb ass" Bush donning a dunce cap and scribbling with crayons. And while Kerry's constant references to the purple hearts bestowed on him after a Vietnam tour is silly enough, fans of Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove can't help but chuckle at the image of Dubya descending into thin air atop a nuclear missile, à la Slim Pickens.

AtomFilms has worked with JibJab Media since late 1999; the company's warehouse of more than 1,000 shorts includes other films created by the studio, including political spoof "Ahnold For Governor!"

While still based in Brooklyn, New York in 2001, JibJab Media unwittingly attracted attention when the "Naked Wife" virus attacked Windows-based PCs across the United States and Europe. When unsuspecting prey opened the virus's Flash movie attachment, it apparently featured JibJab Media's logo.

"This Land," which runs just under two minutes, has caused quite a media stir--and that's only propelling its popularity. The Spiridellis brothers appeared Tuesday on NBC's "Today Show" after the morning program ran the short. The movie was officially launched Monday on the AtomFilms home page, and has yet to be distributed to syndication partner sites or even mentioned in the company's newsletter.

"This is all coming from viral, filmmakers and people passing the link along," says a stunned O'Neill, adding: "We're just thrilled that we have exclusive rights. It pays to build a relationship with content creators."

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