WHILE every other movie fan is fixated on the opening of Star Wars, a dedicated fandom menace is waiting for the really big film event a month from now.
That's when South Park: The Movie opens and Cartman & Co make it to the top of the Hollywood A-list.
South Park is proof positive that the Net knows a good toon - and that TV companies have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into satisfying customer demand.
The Simpsons, Rugrats, Ren And Stimpy - all TV's cult cartoons, in fact - started off as Net hits.
Lacking the constraints and the costs of TV, the Net has lured cartoonists and animators of all kinds.
Much of the thanks for this has to go to Macromedia, whose Flash software is now the standard for Web animation, used by everyone, from Disney to Cartoon Network.
One of the results is The Goddamn George Liquor Programme, from the strange mind of John Kricfalusi.
He was the creator of Ren And Stimpy, the hysterically crude and offbeat adventures of a highly-strung Chihuhua and his dim-witted cat pal.
Like many others, Kricfalusi discovered that taking the leap from the Net to TV cult cartoon success was too restricting - and has gone back into cyberspace to find freedom.
The result is George Liquor, originally planned as the master of Ren And Stimpy, but hated by Nickolodeon, the TV company who bought Ren And Stimpy.
Now George, a beer-bellied bigot who makes Alf Garnett look like a diplomat, shares a Flash point on the Web with his nephew Jimmy the Idiot Boy and a dog whose graphically portrayed bowel movements show exactly what freedom TV would restrict.
ON the other hand, the Web influence is now changing the attitude of TV. Macromedia, the seven-year-old US company that invented Flash, has a showcase website called ShockRave.
On it, they created Honkworm, a toon that makes Monty Python look normal and involves the adventures of urban fish.
MTV execs liked it - and decided to air it without modification, which makes it the first Flash-based production, designed for a 28.8Kbps modem, to run on mainstream TV.
There are now 130 Flash-based slots, each 30 seconds long, in the pipeline.
WHAT other toon tips for TV this time next year? Well, Tommy Sausage is a possibility - but only on late-night Channel 4.
Created by Andy Wyatt, who works as an animator for European TV, has conjured up a bizarre world involving a chicken-obsessed degenerate.
Extremely funny, extremely rude, it was inspired, says Wyatt, by "the freedom and potential worldwide audience of the Net. TV rules and regulations are often ridiculous. On the Web, anything goes. …