The First Viral Video?

It’s common knowledge that the Numa Numa video was the first real viral video that found it’s way onto YouTube, and took on a life of it’s own. But I remember watching and sharing The 405 Movie back inĀ  2001, and it seemed to have a pretty viral quality too. This exciting three minute drama, produced by Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt, had everyone’s attention for a while. Since then Bruce has worked as a digital artist on productions such as the hit show Lost, the remake of King Kong and many others. He now has his own high-end computer graphics and visual effects company, Branit|VFX. Jeremy has done visual effects for Showtime’s hit Weeds and movies Marley and Me and The X-Files. He owns a small visual effects studio by the charming name of Screaming Death Monkey.

405movieposterI guess it doesn’t really matter whether you agree that it was the first viral video, but you can’t argue that these two talented and creative guys did an excellent job of marketing themselves digitally in a pre-YouTube era. (FYI: YouTube launched and uploaded the first video on April 23, 2005.)

I know it was over eight years ago, but The 405 Movie is the most exciting AND funny 3 minute video that I’ve seen to date. I still love watching it. Enjoy!

13 thoughts on “The First Viral Video?”

  1. I DO remember this video! I’m pretty sure you are the one that showed it to me a few years ago. You’re right, it’s still pretty funny.

  2. hmm…interesting. I love this plot summary at wikipedia, about as concise as you can get it:

    “The film shows a DC-10 jet making an emergency landing onto the 405 freeway in California, with the front part of the plane pinning a man’s car to the road, forcing him to be pushed along by it until it comes to a stop. In the process of slowing down, the plane and the man’s car almost hit an elderly woman driving slowly in her car, though she is oblivious to this fact and extends the middle finger as she cruises past.”

    But you’re right about the viral impact. It was a seed version of YouTube. Wikipedia again, citing IMDB:

    “with little promotional effort the film soon reached millions of online viewers through widespread internet access. By July it was featured on the site iFilm where it had received two million viewers.”

  3. Thanks Ross! I always welcome extra content for my posts. Nice comment.

  4. Numa Numa was hardly the first viral video. Viral videos existed well before the existence of hosted video websites like Youtube.

    If you recall, back in the 90’s, videos would be uploaded to a persons FTP server, and the URL would be sent via email. You must recall getting tons of email forwards from people with “YOU GOT TO CHECK THIS OUT” and such. With the click of a link, you’d be either watching a MOV file through the web browser, or MPG or AVI files through Winamp, Media Player and others. And this was back in the 90’s, not 2001 with that 405 “movie”.

    Examples are endless, but ones I would receive multiple times in the spam of a year back in 1997 were:

    Monkey Drinking His Own Pee
    Beached Whale Exploded on Beach

  5. Hi Whale Guts! Thanks for the comment. Guess I forgot to reply months ago.

    I didn’t say that Numa Numa was the first viral video, merely the first viral video to really make the rounds on YouTube. And then, with the help of YouTube, thousands of people proceeded to make their own versions of Numa Numa, creating their own community. That’s the real phenomenon that happens when a single video get popular.

    Do a search for Numa Numa and you’ll find over 100,000 videos. It’s pretty trippy.

    I have to say that I never saw the two videos you mentioned. They both sound really gross though. I don’t think anyone tried to recreated those videos, that’s for sure.

  6. Dancing Baby.

    Not that Dancing Baby was the first video to be passed around the internet. But it was the first to escape the internet.

    Sure, all of us in ’96 who had a 56K modem and patience passed around Exploding Whale. But that’s as far as it got. Dancing Baby? It got referenced on Ally McBeal, a Blockbuster Video commercial, Celebrity Death Match, and freaking 3rd Rock from the Sun.

    Dancing Baby was the first video to make that leap from online pop culture to just pop culture.

  7. And while it did predate YouTube, I think you’ve got to credit Star Wars Kid as the original viral video in the more modern definition of inspiring parody and meme-making. 3 years before YouTube and yet it still got huge as a video meme. That’s some viral power.

  8. The Star Wars Kid is no more of an original viral video than Numa Numa.

    I agree that the Dancing Baby was a phenomenon, but the fact that it was popularized by Ally McBeal and others took away from its viral quality.

    I went to college when T1 lines were just becoming popular on campuses. The biggest viral video of 1999 was probably the monkey sniffing its finger after sticking it in its butt.

    To me, “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” represents the first truly viral sensation. You had a video that spawned clubs, websites, etc., and it had no help from the popular media. It was a viral sensation unto itself alone, and I will always consider the first viral video.

  9. You forgot the “Troops” video, the spoof that mixed the documentary style of COPS with the universe of Star Wars. That video was being passed around like crazy on the web and via email (yes, back when people used email to send each other videos and stuff) around 1997 or thereabouts… this was when the web was breaking big and all the cool kids were finally sucking it up and getting internet accounts and email addresses.

  10. Bubb Rubb and the Leprechaun in the tree were the first viral videos on YouTube, not Numa Numa.

  11. Actually according to google the first viral video came out in 2005 and a video that came out around that time was evolution of dance with 200million views it used to be the most famous video

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