I didn’t realise how much Weebl meant to me until I burst out crying watching Jonti Picking perform Badgers at Summer in the City 2012. For some reason, being in a crowd of YouTube geeks moshing along to the song triggered something in me I didn’t realise was there.
Like most of my peers, I was first exposed to Weebl whilst at school. Badgers was perfectly silly for 14 year olds: I recall everyone at school passing the link around, playing it unexpectedly in the middle of a class, much to the frustrations of all of our teachers.
Growing up, I’d never thought much about how important the daft song meant to me till that very moment. At the ripe age of 21, bawling my eyes out. I had to be taken to the girls’ toilets by a female friend of mine to clean me up.
It got me wondering: if Jonti could provoke that sort of reaction from me, what must he mean to some of YouTube’s animators? I got in touch with five, to talk about their experiences with Weebl, and draw their favourite characters…
Matt Ley (Thelaserbearguy)
Matt Ley first discovered Weebl aged 7, when his mum showed him Badgers for the first time. “If I’m 100% honest, the snake freaked me out, rather a lot,” he says. “It’s my earliest memory of the internet and probably what sparked my interest in animation.”
Paying homage to Magical Trevor and Shallots, which he points out is one of Weebl’s lesser-appreciated songs, Matt believes Jonti has influenced his work in multiple ways. “He’s definitely responsible for my appreciation of all things silly,” he says. “I love the simplicity behind all the ideas, and I find it comforting knowing that, as long as the humour is solid, people will appreciate any sort of visual style, no matter how simple it may be.
“I love his ability to generate such wonderfully catchy and memorable things out of the most unlikely of topics…”
“For my personal work, a more minimalistic look is much more achievable, and I tend to play more on my writing ability than my animation ability,” he says. “Jonti has shown me that the two can work well, in any sort of balance.”
Matt’s favourite Weebl video is Crabs, because it’s simple, catchy, and has an unappreciated elegance. “I love his ability to generate such wonderfully catchy and memorable things, out of the most unlikely of topics,” he says. “To this day I can’t remember any of the French I spent 6 years studying, but if you need someone to do a near-perfect a cappella rendition of Celery, then I’m your man!”
Ed Stockham (smilinglimpet)
Ed Stockham struggled with which Weebl character to draw. “I wanted to draw him happily playing with one of his characters but I couldn’t decide which one and when I drew him smiling it just looked super creepy,” he says. “So this is my compromise: Jonti looking pensively into his muse, while haunted by a giant hybrid of his creations and thinking about his lunch.”
Ed’s favourite Weebl video is Magical Trevor, mostly due to nostalgia. “I think I knew the song before I’d seen the cartoon, because everyone use to sing it,” he says. “It reminds me of camping, and driving around country lanes at night.”
Ed says Jonti was part of the reason he started animating. “A lot of the things I made when I first started out were really bad impressions of his stuff,” he laughs. “That’s kind of embarrassing, I guess.”
Since meeting Jonti, Ed has sat on animation panels alongside him, but he still recalls the first time he met him. “I was wearing this colourful shirt that he instantly took a dislike to,” he says, “he spent a good amount of time telling me to go home and change. We took a picture together, which is easily one of the best photos I’ve ever been in.”
Maddy Vian (indieVISUALmaddy)
Watching Newground Scene videos with her brothers in the early 2000s was Maddy Vian’s first exposure to Weebl. “It was essentially boys making content for boys,” she explains. “But I like how a lot of it was non-gender-specific and could be enjoyed by everyone and anyone. That’s how I want my content to be seen too!”
Maddy decided to draw Cat Face, because she still gets the theme tune stuck in her head, out of nowhere. “I wanted to portray Cat Face as a super hero, because he’s pretty iconic to my early teens,” she says.
She also recalls watching Badgers for the first time. “I think that must have been my first,” she says. “I remember watching it with everyone crowding around the computers at school.”
Maddy says she’ll never forget seeing Jonti perform it at Summer in the City 2012. “Seeing such a large crowd badger-bobbing was such a surreal moment,” she adds. “In my head I was screaming ‘Internet, you are so weird and I love you!’”
“I was AMAZED at how long Badgers went on for. I watched it for a good half hour until my sister told me it was just on a loop…”
PJ Liguori (KickThePj)
PJ Liguori chose to draw Narwhals. “I figured it would be a fun one to draw, and it was,” he says. Like most, the first Weebl video he saw was Badgers. “I was AMAZED at how long it went on for,” he says. “I watched it for a good half hour until my sister told me it was just on a loop. That was the day I learnt you can loop things.”
PJ recalls first meeting Jonti at a social gathering. “I was a bit tipsy and wasn’t sure what to say so I think I kept saying the same words over and over,” he laughs. “He was very kind despite my loss for words.”
Along with Eddsworld, Weebl was one of PJ’s earliest influences, and his work informed PJ’s skills. “I studied how simple their drawings were, and from that realised how effective that can be,” he says.
Scott Coello (Cribble)
Scott Coello decided to draw Weebl and Bob themselves. However, he’s drawn them being cracked open. “I’m hungry, and those eggs have to be used up before they go off,” he says.
Weebl and Bob were the first animations by Jonti that Scott saw, but he can’t remember which specific episode it was. “It was yonks back, during 2002 or 2003, y’know, when finding Flash animations during lunch breaks was the best thing ever,” he says.
Scott believes that Weebl has influenced him to be more spontaneous with his work. “I love the spontaneity of it all,” he says. “Some mornings you wake up with a simple, silly idea and it just feels right to quickly get that drawn and out there.”
Scott paints a vivid (and definitely 100% true) picture of the first time he met Jonti. “I was working as a waitress at a cocktail bar, he pinched my bum and then realised I was a bloke,” he ‘recalls’. “It’s fine, we were both totally cool with it. Now I have his face tattooed where the pinch mark was.” Sure Scott, sure.
What was the first Weebl video you saw, and what does his work mean to you? Let us know in the comments…