As does any website, book, movie, cartoon, whatever, Toonarific started with an idea laced with caffeine, sugar, and toxic fumes. Waaaay back in 1995, during the dawn of the Internet, I had an epiphany that has since been an integral part of my life. Now, my strange addiction to toons started even before then; back in High School. I had always loved cartoons, since as far back as I can remember, but in High School the obsession started becoming a reality. My first major encounter with creating something tooney, was a periodic chart of the elements, but each element was replaced with a Warner Bros character, like a picture of Bugs was BugsBunnyium, and there was Brainium, Fuddium, and so on. Another guy and I were throwing around the idea, and I started cleaning up the character shots, but the project was never finished.
After graduation, I took the Summer off, but started working at a factory in the Fall. Now, while there, after inhaling enough paint fumes and donuts, a group of us started reminiscing about the cartoons we used to watch, and I started compiling a list in a flimsy notebook. The main reason for the list was because to that point, I hadn't found any books that listed all the toons that had been on TV. Later I found the Lenburg and Erickson books, which were riddled with inaccuracies anyway. The list grew to several hundred names, so I knew I had something there.
Now I was armed with a growing list, and wasn't sure how to get it out to the people. I bought one of the old HTML bibles and started learning how to program with Stacey, so we could create a website that everyone would have access to. I actually hand wrote the code for the templates into the notebook, so it would be ready to go for when I could have internet access to make the site. Crazy! It took almost 3 years from that point before I had a constant internet source. It was the only thing that I truly liked when working at that engineering company. So, in 1998, Toonarific's first incarnation was born. Originally, the site was called The World's Bestest Cartoon Archive. Remember that? I'm sure there are some of our loyal fans who remember that name. We used frames, and had a really nasty looking layout that only someone just learning HTML could muster. It wasn't until May 1999 that we got the Toonarific name and domain. Since then, we have had many revisions to our layout and formatting.
It took a while to get listed on the search engines, but after that people started to find us from random toon searches. As the time passed by, more and more people found us, or passed the name on to their friends, and so on. As of now, March of 2005, we have accumulated approx. 12 million hits, and get almost 200k new unique visitors every month. This is still without any advertising or corporate affiliation! Word of mouth advertising works! Even many of the big dogs that paid tons on adverts and so forth have disappeared. The reason for that, though, was because corporations don't have the passion and drive to keep an extensive project like this going. They only seem to care as long as profit is involved.
Around the same time of the first revision to the site's layout, I also started putting together a library of footage, in order to make sure that there was something archived for the shows that I was now referencing. The library grew from a small 3 shelved bookshelf, to a full-scale library. Productions from all over the world, dating back to the earliest works in the dawn of animation or archived now, with hundreds of shows on film as well. Film and vhs won't last forever, so we have been painstakingly digitizing the library for preservation, and hope that one day we will be able to allow access to the vast volumes we have been able to assemble, since everyone should enjoy the shows that were created for them in the first place. Until then, we will continue to archive everything we can get ahold of, and make sure there is still a future for these shows, the good and the horrifically bad.
The future is still wide open, and there doesn't seem to be any shortage of animated productions on the horizon. We'll keep adding them, and will eventually become a hub in animation that will be used throughout the world on a much greater level then we are now. The site will keep changing too, by keeping up with technology and our user's preferences. Just keep checking back, and watch this site as it grows and develops through the years.
We have also managed to pull together screen grabs of how our site has developed over time, and have put them on display over the next couple of pages. There are still a couple old designs I'm looking for, and will be sure to add them as I stumble across them.