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Adobe Flash was a vector graphics animation software program developed by Macromedia (based on an earlier program by Macromedia purchase FutureWave) and later added to Adobe's series of professional graphic applications under their merger. Initially called Shockwave Flash, it was designed to create smooth line-art animations and interactivity for web-based projects (basically, Illustrator, but with the 4th dimension added). It introduced its own coding language, Actionscript, and has its own standalone player software as well.
The "Shockwave" brand was something of an Artifact Title even from the beginning. See, Macromedia had an existing product called "Director" that was more mature and did some of the same things, and they had developed a browser plugin called "Shockwave" to let people view Director movies directly in their browser. After Macromedia bought FutureWave, they positioned Flash as something of a "Director Lite", most likely to protect Director sales. Flash proved popular, however, and eventually they dropped the Shockwave branding.
Since its introduction, Flash has gained more and more features. Due to the shortcuts that it offers that aren't available in normal animation, combined with steady improvement in computer performance and decreasing budgets from cable networks, it's started to branch from animations made for the Web into television and even movie animation (this article mainly covers these titles). Not everything made in it is good, but the standouts tend to be excellent. Also, Flash has been a key component in the rise of Web-based TV, owing to its installed base and features that make playback easy to implement.
Flash has not been without its competitors. Toon Boom has been competing against it in the entertainment industry for years now, and has actually been used in big-scale feature films. Both programs have developed to the point where it is nearly impossible to determine which show was made with which program just by watching them. Silverlight is a direct competitor to Flash on the Web, developed by Microsoft and based on .NET classes. Also, HTML 5 adds video capability to the HTML standard, though it's still new and isn't available in all browsers, much less the older versions people are likely to keep around for the next few years. Apple has a turbulent relationship with the software due to its rudimentary video performance- their iPad originally could not play Flash Player videos, and Flash games are nowhere to be found in the games that are available for their hardware.
Flash's player became commonly used by web designers for tasks it wasn't originally intended to perform well, such as banner ads, bitmapped video, games, complex interactive applications and, as of Flash 11, full on 3D rendered games. Its adoption for those uses can be traced to the Microsoft vs. Netscape wars of the late 1990s, which kept equivalent functionality from being standardized in HTML while the two sides duked it out. Now that the browser landscape has improved and most browsers at least try to follow the relevant standards, complex forms and applications using “AJAX” have gained in popularity; this also made them attractive for use on smartphones, which often didn't have the CPU power to run a full-featured Flash plugin.
In November 2011, Adobe announced it will no longer develop Flash software for iOS games past the current version; development for the Android version of Flash was also dropped around the same time. This more or less marked the beginning of the end of the software, and soon alternatives based in the new standard HTML5 began to be developed, with Adobe themselves beginning to phase out Flash in favor of their new technologies Adobe AIR (which was specifically aimed to game developing), and their newer software Adobe Edge Animate (which is basically Adobe Flash for HTML5, with the aim of making this technology more accessible to designers, artists and people without a technical background).
The Flash Player was deprecated in 2017, and officially discontinued on December 31, 2020 in almost every territory save China, with most browsers and operating systems disabling it shortly afterward (or, in some cases, beforehand). Some projects to emulate Flash with the purpose of keeping access to the enormous library of web content created with the software; the best known is the Ruffle emulator, which is used by the Internet Archive and other preservation projects.
- Awkward Zombie
- Burning Stickman Presents...Something! was a Sprite Comic made in Flash, with animated comics occasionally, typically on 100 comic milestones.
- Most of the Dumm Comics
- Keychain of Creation
- Homestuck, which releases Flash animations every 50 comics or so. (Originally the writer planned for every panel to be a Flash comic, but it was deemed to be too time consuming.)
- VG Cats used Flash to smooth its line art earlier in its run.
- Bob and George occasionally incorporated Flash segments.
- Newheimburg has made the transition from hand-drawn to fully Flash-based drawing recently.[when?]
- Arj and Poopy, by former Disney Australia animator Bernard Derriman
- Bitey of Brackenwood, by former Disney effects animator Adam Phillips.
- Non Sequitur Sceneimation]]
- Brain POP (The first season of the show was done with cut-out animation, however)
- Cyanide & Happiness
- Gotham Girls
- Happy Harry, by Harry Partridge.
- Homestar Runner
- Leo and Satan
- Looney Tunes web series exclusively on the Warner Bros. website during the Nineties. They're now buried in its archives.
- The Masked Girl
- Many shows by the studio Mondo Media
- Thomas Timberwolf, Chuck Jones' last animated project ever.
- Weebl and Bob and the other series on their site
- Almost Naked Animals
- Atomic Betty
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force
- The non-Steve/Joe characters in Blue's Clues, after the very early episodes where they were made of paper cutouts, switched to Flash animation (becoming probably the first show to use this), until switching to puppets in 2004.
- Bobinogs (Although the first couple of seasons complex animations were done on paper, then scanned and traced into Flash.)
- Bob's Burgers
- The Buzz on Maggie
- Caillou - later episodes
- Chaotic (season 1 only; M'arillian Invasion and on used normal animation)
- Cyberchase from season six onward.
- Dan Vs.
- Doctor Who: Has used it for a couple of Flash Animated Specials Dreamland and Infinite Quest and a Flash Game.
- The television movie of Drawn Together, meant to mimic the hand-drawn style of the original show.
- El Tigre
- Esurance's insurance commercials pre-2010, starring Erin Esurance.
- Family Guy's talk-show-style special on FOX, promoting Seth MacFarlane's ill-fated live-action sitcom, The Winner. It is the only instance of Family Guy done in Flash, in order to save time.
- Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman
- Fish Hooks
- Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends
- Freaknik: The Musical
- Gotham Girls
- Guest from the Future 2
- Happy Tree Friends was broadcast on G4 for a while.
- Harvey Birdman - The first nine episodes were made the caveman way with paper, until they promptly moved to Flash.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi
- Home Movies - Season 2 and onward.
- Huntik: Secrets & Seekers - The first season was all done in traditional animation. The second season, however, alternated between traditional and flash, with over half of the episodes being in flash.
- Jimmy Two Shoes - in combination with Toon Boom Harmony
- Johnny Test - the later episodes were made in Flash.
- Henry and June on KaBlam!!, one of the earliest shows to use this.
- Kappa Mikey
- Kick Buttowski
- Lil' Bush
- Making Fiends
- Metalocalypse. Notable in that it has impressive animation in comparison to its predecessor, especially in its third season.
- The Mighty B!
- The Mr. Men Show
- Mucha Lucha
- My Life Me
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Notable for the high quality of the animation. The creator of the show, Lauren Faust, specifically picked an animation studio that could make the animation look like traditional, and was adept at animating four-legged animals. The movements look surprisingly natural, as opposed to the less natural movement that often plagues flash animated shows.
- Neighbors From Hell
- Out of Jimmy's Head, and the television movie it was based on: Re-Animated. The cartoon characters were made in Flash in both cases, but the TV show was done by another studio.
- Phineas and Ferb: The show is usually traditionally animated with digital ink and paint instead, but there are rare moments where the animation is instead animated with Flash, such as in "Phineas and Ferb Musical Cliptastic Countdown Hosted by Kelly Osbourne." Take Two with Phineas and Ferb, a talk show hosted by the title characters where they interview various real-life celebrities, also uses this program.
- Pound Puppies (2010 series)
- The Powerpuff Girls used it for the final episode, The Powerpuff Girls Rule!. This episode was noticeably different from the entire rest of the series, partly because of the animation, and partly because of the fast-paced, random gags.
- The Problem Solverz
- Ricky Sprocket: Showbiz Boy
- The Secret of Kells - Only about 5-10% of the film was made in Flash, mostly dream sequences or the story of Colmicille. The 18-second animation of the woodland spirit Aisling for the Academy Awards nomination was made in Flash.
- The Secret Show
- Shugo Chara - (Pucchi Puchi only)
- Shuriken School
- Sita Sings the Blues
- Skunk Fu!
- Sons of Butcher
- Spaceballs: The Animated Series (and boy, does it ever look it)
- Speed Racer: The Next Generation
- Superjail: Praised by animation fans as using an extremely early version of the program to get very fine lines to make the whole thing look like it's animated on paper, with literally a new drawing every frame!
- Three Delivery
- Time Warp Trio
- The Total Drama series
- Ugly Americans
- The Venture Brothers: The pilot was done in Flash. The rest of the show is not.
- Wakfu: Notable for certain episodes that are ludicrously well-animated, even as the quality of animation continues to improve.
- Wayside: like Johnny Test, the later episodes were made in Flash.
- Where Ma' Dogs At
- Wilbur: The main program features puppets, but Flash is used for the book-reading segments.
- Wild Animal Baby Explorers: the main program is high-definition "3-D" CGI (with nature footage presented as live-action), but the characters' Imagine Spots are presented in Flash.
- Word Girl
- Wow Wow Wubbzy
- Yakkity Yak
- Yin Yang Yo!
- Carl Squared