This week marks the finale of the beloved online animated series Eddsworld. Conceived long before the launch of YouTube, the story of Eddsworld is a journey steeped in joy, sadness, and silliness. Join TenEighty on a whirlwind tour through the history of Edd Gould’s vision that has become an institution of online animation.
“Eddsworld is a webtoon about a guy called Edd and the wacky adventures he gets up to with his friends,” according to Tom ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell – co-writer, producer and voice of Tom in the series.
“And they’re all complete idiots,” adds Matt Hargreaves – Edd’s best friend and voice of Matt.
“Eddsworld is an animated series created by Edd Gould, starring himself and his friends,” says co-producer and co-writer Eddie Bowley. “It’s silly, wacky, and witty. It’s meant to be a joyous show that makes people happy.”
Eddsworld Legacy is the project that continued the show after Edd’s death, but where did the Eddsworld saga begin?
Matt tells us that Eddsworld’s inception occurred when Edd took to making hand-drawn comics about himself and his school friends. “When I met Edd, he’d already been drawing it for a few years,” he says. In those days, Ed was obsessed with “a very basic animation programme on the school computers”, which allowed him to create simple GIFs.
As Edd himself wrote in a post on DeviantArt, it was inevitable that his attempts to create and share cartoons online would lead him to Flash animation. He cites 7 November 2002 as the day he downloaded a Flash animation program and began work on what would eventually become Eddsworld.
Edd writes that he was making stick-figure flash animations like Bendee 4 (2003) until around 2004, when he “started making less stick movies and more character-based things”, culminating in “the first Eddsworld ‘crew’ animation, the Eddsworld Christmas Special ’04.”
It was during Edd’s ‘stick-figure’ phase that he caught the attention of Tom. Edd wrote: “[Tom] was actually a fan who had added me on a messaging service back when I did stick animations.”
Tom remembers approaching Edd in this capacity around 2003. “He was doing these stickman animations, which to me – as a 12-to-13 year old – were absolutely AMAZING,” Tom says. As they became friends, Edd began including Tom in his cartoons, leading to a blossoming creative relationship. “Soon I was contributing jokes, then soundscapes, then music, then actually writing scripts,” says Tom.
Edd was fond of putting his friends in his animations, but they weren’t always happy with the results. Edd wrote: “[Matt] initially didn’t want to be in my earlier stick animations because he claimed I kept killing him off.” Matt concurs, telling TenEighty: “I got annoyed that he killed me in so many animations, so I told him not to draw me any more.”
He eventually got over it, according to Edd: “When I later asked if he wanted to appear and then die very early in Eddsworld Zombeh Attack , he was all up for it.” Soon Matt became a regular member of the Eddsworld team as we know it.
None of the growing Eddsworld family could have known at that time the online phenomenon they were creating. Matt tells us the show was simply “a fun thing to do with my best friend”. He remembers “sitting on Edd’s bed with a notepad, trying to brainstorm ideas” and even developing concepts for the show while “holidaying with Edd’s family in Devon”.
Tom says Edd had no designs on fame and fortune, telling us that “he frequently sabotaged any opportunities to get Eddsworld picked up by larger networks. He just wanted to make it… Just because.”
Edd was driven purely by a love of animation, according to Matt. “You tell a kid he can make his own cartoon series, I don’t think he thinks about money or anything. Edd loved cartoons, so making his own was kind of a given.”
Edd writes that it was success on the website Newgrounds that launched the series proper. “It wasn’t until The Dudette Next Door  that Newgrounds’ audience took any notice… and things started snowballing from there.”
Newgrounds continued to champion Edd’s work, often featuring his animations and giving them various staff-pick awards.
Newgrounds is also where Edd befriended Tord Larsson, who became a regular in Eddsworld until his character’s hurried departure in 25ft Under the Seat (2008) when he left, according to Edd, “simply because he wished to pursue his own ambitions separately from the group”.
Newgrounds proved to be a rich resource for Edd, both socially and creatively, also introducing him to Paul ter Voorde, an animator who came to play a major role in the series. “It all started with a review that was left on one of our animations by the other,” says Paul. “I unfortunately cannot recall who left the review first and on what video but, we both decided to help each other out with our animations.”
As Eddsworld evolved, Paul’s level of involvement extended to “voicing and small animation sequences to complete the cartoons quicker. Of course, at the time this wasn’t a real job. This was just friends helping friends.”
Newgrounds is perhaps the best place to observe the evolution of Edd’s animation, from the basic shapes and simple movements of Edd (2003), a surprisingly dark and evocative stick-figure short, through the more fleshed-out scrappy silliness of Edd being pelted with cola cans in Sugar Sugar (2007). Then on to the more complex and sophisticated look of the aforementioned 25ft Under the Seat (2008), which Matt refers to as “a clear example of Edd’s animation technique progressing and becoming a style” and still his favourite Eddisode.
By the time the two-part story Hammer & Fail Part 1 and Part 2 (2010/2011) was released – a free-wheeling concoction of bizarre ideas, ridiculous sight-gags and previously unseen depths of characterisation and fluidity of animation – Edd’s style was fully realised and had earned a passionate fanbase.
Unfortunately, it was between the two parts of Hammer and Fail – on 16 April 2011 – that Edd uploaded a video called Edd vs Cancer. The acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that Edd had previously beaten into submission had returned. The video is testament to the spirit and optimism of Edd and his friends as Tom and Matt sit either side of him and joke that he will “kick cancer’s ass”. As Tom puts it now: “We never really expected him to die.”
Edd remained creative throughout his illness, completing Hammer & Fail and several other projects, before embarking on what was to be his final animation Space Face (Part 1) (2012).
Paul moved to England to work with Edd full-time in November 2011, and remembers Edd showing him his progress on the new Eddisode. “He told me that he was having difficulties finishing the episode due to his medical condition,” says Paul. “At that time, I offered to help him, sat down at his desk and started to help fill in the bits he was having difficulty completing.”
Though their friendship began online, Tom looks back most fondly on his time working with Edd in person, telling us “it was quite a rare occurrence, since we lived so far apart”. His favourite memories are of collaborating with Edd on the various processes the development of the show called for, such as “recording water sound effects by having [Edd] dance in a bathtub, brainstorming ideas in the hospital, doodling in each other’s sketchbooks.
“We both just really liked working,” Tom recalls.
Matt remembers sitting silently in Edd’s room “watching cartoons together, and every now and then he’d pause it to play a scene he’d just finished.”
Edd died on 25 March 2012, leaving a hole in the lives of family, friends and fans across the world.
Tom tells us there was no real contingency plan for the continuation of Eddsworld in Edd’s absence. “We’d only really joked about what we’d do if he ‘bailed on life’,” he says, “such as recording a bunch of random lines of dialogue and building episodes around them.” But when the idea of continuing the show came up, it seemed logical. “Edd’s mum was very adamant that Edd wanted the show to keep going and I was happy to help,” Tom continues.
The fact that Edd had left some unfinished business also helped motivate the team. “Edd animated the first half of a two-part episode,” says Matt. “And we all wanted to see it finished.”
“After that it just kinda felt right to do even more,” adds Tom. “Keep the show going, make something good come of it all.”
And that good came in the shape of an Indiegogo campaign to fund the new episodes of the show and give any profits to a cancer charity in honour of Edd. Eddie Bowley tells us that “since Edd’s passing, Eddsworld has been a non-profit show, with every penny it earns going to CLIC Sargent, a charity that provides cancer care for children and young adults”.
The Indiegogo campaign was fully funded in just five days, according to The End Part 2 animator Matt Ley. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such dedication in a group of fans with any other web series,” he says.
Though the team’s intentions were good, continuing the series came with its own creative perils and pitfalls. Not only was Edd the creator and animator of the show, he was also the star. The search was on for a replacement for Edd’s dulcet tones, with Tom eventually landing on YouTube filmmaker Tim Hautekiet. “Tom asked me to read some lines,” says Tim. “And it turned out he and the Eddsworld team liked me for the part.”
Tim filled in the voicework for Edd on Space Face (Part 2) (2012), while the animation was completed by Paul.
Ben Smallman, animator on The End Part 2 (2016) and provider of the end credits for Fun Dead (2014), thinks Edd would “likely be blown away” by Paul’s work, as it “depicted his characters with such panache and smoothness”.
The significance of taking Edd’s place was not lost on Tim. “It was terrifying!” he says. “I wanted to do both his work justice and make sure I was the right thing for my friends, who had such a personal connection to the show.
“None of this accounting for the Eddheads who all share their passion,” Tim continues. “It felt huge.”
A major challenge was the task of creatively staying true to what had gone before, without resorting to pastiche and mimicry. This was very relevant in the casting of Tim. “Tom and Eddie [Bowley] had stressed to me it wasn’t about doing an impersonation,” recalls Tim. “They said they’d cast me for my natural voice so I trusted them, as they had the vision for the show.”
With growing delays in both the production of the series and the delivery of the Indiegogo campaign perks, Tom began to feel the pressure of taking on this sensitive and ambitious project. He went in search of a helping hand behind the scenes, and this is where Eddie Bowley – an animator who had known Edd for a number of years and voiced the character of Jon – became more involved in the project. “Tom approached his circle of friends, saying if anyone would like to submit script ideas, he would be interested,” says Eddie. “The only person to pitch an idea was me.”
Eddie’s pitch wasn’t an immediate hit, but Tom came back to him shortly afterwards. “The script I wrote was never made, but Tom later asked me to help him with Fun Dead,” says Eddie. Fun Dead would be the first Eddisode with no creative involvement from Edd himself, and Tom found it difficult to recapture the magic. “He knew the story and had a list of jokes but couldn’t come up with any dialogue for the gang,” recalls Eddie.
“After a day, I sent him a completed script,” he says. “I’d say 80-90% of the script made it into the final thing.”
Tom was quick to realise that Eddie could help shoulder the responsibility of the show. “I was asked to co-direct and co-produce Eddsworld with him,” says Eddie. “I have been hugely involved behind the scenes, writing scripts, liaising with animators, making creative decisions and generally trying to keep the whole crazy thing together.”
As Matt puts it: “Tom’s been the real front-runner of the project, but Eddie kept him on track.”
Eddie was also very conscious of the expectations that came along with the project. “I was deeply aware of the dedication of the fanbase and the role Eddsworld had as an inspiration to the animation community,” he says. “I was proud to be involved and committed myself to do the best job I possibly could.”
Tim says that this was a common feeling throughout the crew. “Everyone involved with Legacy knew it wasn’t about us… It was bigger. It was about the fans and Edd himself,” he says.
Of course there were concerns among the fans regarding an Eddsworld without Edd, but Tom says: “The show was never a one-man team. It was always a collaborative effort with so many people involved – writers, composers, animators and illustrators.”
And though Edd’s style was important to the team, it was also important to keep the show fresh. “We always kept ‘what would Edd do’ in mind,” says Eddie. “[But] if you compare a 2007 episode to a 2010 episode, the writing is much different, so Edd was always evolving as a writer.
“So we avoided being too bogged down with repeating old jokes like a bad Mike Myers sequel and pushed Eddsworld in different but natural directions,” he continues.
In the same way that Tim was encouraged not to mimic Edd’s voice, guest animators were never intended to replicate Edd’s style. Matt says: “Animators were encouraged to bring their own styles to the projects. It’s not quite Edd but I guess that was the point.”
Paul tells us that Edd was always a fan of artists and animators interpreting his work their own way, saying: “He would always get upset with me if I drew him ‘fan art’ in his own drawing style. He always liked to see everyone’s own take on his characters rather than see a mimic of his.”
Anthony ‘Kreid’ Price, animator of PowerEdd (2014), thinks the Legacy Eddisodes hold true to the spirit of classic Eddsworld. “Episodes like Saloonatics  are based on ideas from Edd’s sketchbook, so there’s still a sense of Edd’s writing that stays with the show to this day.”
Saloonatics came under fire from fans for what was perceived as a departure from the traditional Eddsworld style, though Tom chooses it as his favourite Eddisode. “I think it’s the closest to old-school Eddsworld in terms of pacing and storytelling,” he tells us. “I’m just really proud of it and I think it’s exactly the kind of thing Edd and I would’ve made, were he still around.”
Edd’s friends are pragmatic in their estimations of what the man himself might think about the Legacy Eddisodes. Matt thinks Edd would probably “sigh heavily and then laugh”, and Tom says “knowing Edd, if he had only 30 seconds to speak to me from beyond the grave, he’d probably list all the things he didn’t like [about Legacy] before disappearing into the afterlife. Gotta love him.”
We’re sure Edd would appreciate the love and effort that has been poured into the project, however. As Tim says, “Tom, Eddie and Matt really care. And so do all the animators who contribute, and the rest of the team.” Matt Ley echoes this sentiment, saying: “Every single one of them worked so hard to make this happen, and I know Edd would be proud.”
Hide and Seek animator Tobias Knitt has a different outlook, telling us that, were Edd to see Eddsworld Legacy, he would surely complain that “there need to be more Coke cans in the episodes!”
Eddie tells us that The End (Part 2) is the largest Eddsworld production yet, gathering “animators, artists, musicians and voice actors from Eddsworld history in a reunion like never seen before”.
Anthony calls it a celebration of the history of Eddsworld, “with a lot of throwbacks to the older episodes… and a great wrap-up to the story.”
Matt Ley says Eddsworld fans will need to be on their toes if they want to catch all the in-jokes. “I guarantee it will be impossible for any one person to spot every reference and Easter Egg hidden in the two episodes,” he says. “Because they are absolutely brimming with them.”
It’s not just about those historical references, though. According to Tim, The End is “emotionally one of the strongest episodes we’ve done. I think the writers outdid themselves”.
Eddie adds, “Edd himself wanted the finale to call in all the favours on a huge collaboration and for the show to go out with a bang. And boy oh boy, does it ever!”
Tim thinks that The End manages to honour Edd’s legacy and reach a satisfying conclusion for the series in its own right, striking “the right balance between making a tribute to what came before while also living up to all we as audiences expect from a finale”.
Matt Hargreaves is conscious of the adage that “you can’t please all the people all the time”, telling us that “finales have a funny way of splitting a room, so you’ll just have to watch it and see for yourself”.
And Tobias tells us we can expect “a fair amount of Coke cans!”
“Honestly, I just hope Eddsworld has made people happy,” says Tom. “I hope Edd’s family, friends, and fans feel like he’s still around in some way.”
Tim concurs. “I hope people feel like we did Edd’s work justice,” he says. “And they felt all the things throughout our work that they felt while Edd was still around.”
Eddie feels indebted to Edd on a personal and professional level, and sees Legacy as his way of saying thank you. “It’s through him I met everyone I call my friends, leading to a dream career in comedy and animation, and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”
He also hopes Eddsworld continues to inspire further generations of Eddheads “to create their own shows and pursue their aspirations in the creative industry. Lots of people have told me they started animating because of Eddsworld, and that alone makes the whole thing worthwhile.”
Paul says there is no doubt that Edd’s influence has reached beyond his own lifespan: “I myself have had fans of Eddsworld message me to tell me that this series was the reason that they started making their own shows. As an animator, I can tell you that it is the most flattering thing to hear.”
Matt Ley is living evidence of this influence, saying: “Edd’s work inspired me to start my own animations.” So his animation being featured in The End (Part 2) feels like “a nice full-circle sort of thing, getting to contribute to the final episode of the series that got me into animation in the first place.”
The gang ultimately hopes that the show remains a positive force in the world.“I hope that wherever they are, people will be able to look back on the plethora of Eddsworld episodes and still laugh,” says Eddie.
“Failing that, at least we’ve got the charity donations,” adds Tom.
In many ways, the story of Eddsworld is the story of online animation itself, growing from a schoolkid animating simple GIFs to a professionally-produced series being watched by millions around the world. But Tom maintains that Eddsworld has simply been a labour of love for everyone involved: “I think what makes the series so special is that it was never made to ‘succeed’ in a traditional sense. It just… exists. For the love of it. Initially thanks to Edd’s passion, and afterwards because of the passion of his friends and fans.”
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