The End of the World began in 2003 on a playground in Tracy, California, where Jason Windsor and his friends were hanging out one night, disgruntled at the state of the world. This was at the height of the rush to invade Iraq, and “it was one of the first times where I could kind of see the bullshit,” recalls Windsor, now 33. Windsor used a piece of bark to draw the earth on the ground, with missiles flying around wildly. He and his friends, who Windsor calls nerds, were prone to making fun of a “vaguely Slavic” accent a character in Rounders used; later, when he decided to turn the bark drawings into an animation, it was this accent he latched onto.
“End of the World,” the animated video that came out of that night in Tracy, arrived on the then-popular funny-video sites Ebaum’s World and Black Sheep a few months later, after a friend who Windsor said, admittedly dating himself, was into “the hacker” scene, uploaded it. Initially, he’d made it just to share between friends. Instead, the video became one of the first-ever viral videos. While the total number of views from eBaum’s World and Albino Blacksheep aren’t known, a version of the video uploaded onto Youtube — not yet created when “End of the World” was made — has nearly 17 million views today.
For many of us who came of age into a time when spending time on the internet still felt new, embarrassing, or just weird, the video was one of the first things we shared with other people. Unlike the more surreal artifacts of the forum age, “End of the World” was cinematic, funny, and relevant enough to be brought into real world conversations. The video’s jokey portrayal of a president hugging nukes in front of a desk was an iconic political image to a new generation of internet-native activists and voters.
Windsor’s politics were heavily influenced by his music: Anti Flag, Bad Religion, and Rage Against the Machine all helped awaken him to the “bullshit.” And like many people his age, watching the news cover 9/11, and noticing the way the story of the attack and its aftermath were manipulated by different channels, had a prominent effect on him. The push to create something came out of habit. His mother worked on computers for the school system, and he’d been working for her since he was 16, getting to know Adobe software like Flash, After Effects, and Illustrate. At the beginning, he only wanted to make his friends laugh. The end of the world, particularly as a result of man’s stupidity, felt like it would do the trick.
“My friends and I came from a suburban town,” he explained, “so there’s a little bit of a suburban frustration there I think. I think all of us wanted to kind of get out, you know? There’s not a lot to do in a town like that. So maybe there is kind of a flippant fuck-this attitude [in the video], but I also think that people process stuff that way. When there’s something really scary, we laugh about it. These are real things that are happening to us.”
Windsor himself never achieved the fame that his video did, and although he’s made a career out of similar work — he’s an art director and animator — he still isn’t widely known as its creator. But 15 years later, Windsor isn’t sure things have gotten much better. So without any sort of pretense, imagined importance, or even really credit for his past work, he decided to make a sequel to the beloved video. You can watch it here:
“End of the World (Probably for Real This Time)” carries the torch into 2018, with a surprising loyalty to the original. While most updates or reboots attempt to shove an old favorite directly into this time period, Windsor’s sequel stays remarkably in line with his first project, updating ever so slightly but staying the same in theme and voice. At the same time, his skills as an animator and storyteller have grown so much that he interjects quite a bit into the four minute video. The results won’t blow your mind or make you say wow or completely destroy this republican politician or break your heart; they’ll just make you feel a little seen, and maybe a little happier. It’s the beginning of the internet revived.
“Making fun of these very, very real threats to our survival, that are on the one hand not to be taken lightly at all — really that was the instigation to finally make another video associated with the end of the world,” he said of the sequel, which he especially thanks his wife for giving him time to make. “Because, yeah man, shit’s fucked right now, and it’s only going to be getting worse.”
It was hostility in public schools, he says, that particularly pushed him to make the sequel. Like many parents, he feels personally responsible to leave “something” for his two daughters, a 9-year-old and a 3-year-old. Windsor, who at 18 saw global warming as a practically destined killer of his home state and planet, wants his children to be able to breathe.
Climate change isn’t the only thing given more room in the sequel. Other nations, previously reduced to beloved caricatures, become more prominent in the new animation. Russia and France take on new roles, but so do immigrants affected by DACA, and people from countries America is no longer comfortable associating with. The sequel remains sharp and funny and at times absurdly crude, but in a time when the president can say just about anything he wants, why would you not portray him in the most disgusting way possible?
Above all, Windsor hoped to let the sequel exist on its own, free of an overly pushy message. He’s learned from his daughter in particular that heavy-handed lessons often fall on deaf ears, and hopes that his art will nudge more than push. “The detachment part might be a little bit important because otherwise it can be a little heavy-handed. There’s a certain necessity to just not being too heavy-handed,” he said. “I find this when interacting with my daughter too. I can tell her and say, this is what you need to do and this is how you need do it. But when it really sinks is when she gets to figure it out herself. And I can kind of lead her there, but she’s got to do it herself. That’s when it’ll really click.”