Happy Tree Friends is an American flash cartoon created and developed by Aubrey Ankrum, Rhode Montijo, Kenn Navarro and Warren Graff for Mondo Media. The show is cited as an early example of a popular Internet phenomenon achieving a cult following.
The cartoon is drawn in simple appearance and combines cute forest animals with extreme graphic violence. Each episode revolves around the characters enduring accidental events of bloodshed, pain, dismemberment and/or death. The episodes last from between 1 to 7 minutes. At one point, the warning "Cartoon Violence: Not recommended for small children, or big babies" was given on the official website. In 2006, a television series featuring longer episodes aired. A spin-off called Ka-Pow! premiered on September 2, 2008.
While working on Mondo Mini Shows, Rhode Montijo drew on a little piece of scrap paper a character who would later become Shifty. He then drew on a spreadsheet poster a yellow rabbit that bore some resemblance to Cuddles and wrote "Resistance is futile" underneath it. Rhode then hung the drawing up in his workstation so other people could see his idea, and eventually the idea was pitched to and accepted by the Mondo Media executives. In 1999, Mondo gave Aubrey Ankrum, Rhode Montijo and Kenn Navarro a chance to do a short for them. They came up with a short named Banjo Frenzy, which featured a dinosaur (earlier version of Lumpy) killing three woodland animals, a rabbit, squirrel and beaver (earlier versions of Cuddles, Giggles and Toothy) with a banjo. From there, Mondo gave them their own internet series, which they named Happy Tree Friends. They got new writers and animators to work on the show.