The gist of the joke is that as a Halo spinoff, Bungie would launch a new animated television series featuring the Halo characters as "babies" in the style of the old Muppet Babies cartoon. Even the logo looked pretty much the same.
To add depth to the prank, Bungie artist Lorraine McLees created a couple of concept art pieces, some of which can be seen at left. A website was launched called the Definitive Halo Babies Episode Guide, giving episode recaps and naming several celebrities as the people who would be voicing the characters (for example, Baby Cortana was to be played by Cameron Diaz).
Comic and Website Beginnings
Gruntsbane, a member of the Bungie Community, started drawing fan art comic strips of Halo Babies in 2003. mrsmiley, an avid Halo Babies lover, contacted Gruntsbane with a simple proposition: "I'll make the website if you draw the comics." Gruntsbane agreed, as he was a budding artist at the time and looking for a way to fill out his portfolio and get more drawing experience.
The original Halo Babies fansite launched on July 26th, 2003 as a Homestead-hosted site, created with their proprietary web-builder. The site ran out of bandwidth and went offline within a couple days of being announced due to the high amount of traffic. The fansite began coming on and offline in time with Homestead's bandwidth cycles: as a new cycle would hit, Gruntsbane and Mr Smiley would release a new comic, and the site immediately would go offline again.
Gholsbane, another community member and co-manager of myth.bungie.org, contacted mrsmiley and offer to redesign the website using an actual CMS to manage all posts and comics. The new website used much less bandwidth. HaloBabies.net went offline on February 20th, and during the 24 hours or so while the site was being overhauled, HBO was flooded with people asking what had happened. The new site design went live that same day, on February 20th, 2004 (screenshot here).
Four days after the fansite design went live, mrsmiley launched a contest for people who donated $10 or more to keep HaloBabies.net funded. The winner was drawn into a Halo Babies comic, and receive a framed print of their strip. The site received over $1000 in donations, taking care of hosting of the site for the remainder of its life.
On April 2nd, the first Halo Babies fan-art series (following an actual storyline) was released. The series planned to reach its apex at the launch of Halo 2, when the baby Master Chief character would receive his new armor design, along with Cortana. The Halo Babies fan artists also got Frank O'Connor's permission to write his popular "Mister Chief" character into the strip.
Halo Babies was born of an April Fool's joke, so the HaloBabies.net fansite team felt obliged to continue to pull pranks on April 1st of each year. The first joke, regarding Gruntsbane being attacked by a mob of fans, was met with mixed reactions, as a lot of people did not understand that it was an April Fool's prank. The site's 2005 prank about a Halo Babies brand of diapers was bought by a surprising amount of people. The pranks stopped after the first two years due to decreased comic activity on the site.
End of the comics
On January 6, 2006, the last of the regular Halo Babies strips was posted as a fill-in for Stuntmutt, who was taking a paternity leave from drawing his own One One Seven comic. After over two years of weekly strips, Gruntsbane's duties at as an artist and a student had grown to the point where he was unable to keep up with drawing the strip. The final Halo Babies comic was posted a year and a half later on July 19th, 2007. Despite the lack of new comic strips, HaloBabies.net turned into a thousands-strong gaming art site, and started featuring community artists on a regular basis, one of whom was 2phast.
2009 Attack and The End of HaloBabies.net
In the spring of 2009, the HaloBabies.net fansite was hit by a unknown hacker. The forums were scrambled and malware was installed to the server, causing the site to be put on Google's warning list for websites. Despite several efforts by mrsmiley to recover the data and rebuild the site he simply didn't have enough resources and time to relaunch it. As a result, the website officially closed summer of 2009.
As time went on, newer Bungie fans either forgot or never knew about the joke, thus giving Bungie.net regulars a chance to "prank" them when they asked about the rumors. Master Forum Ninja Recon Number 54 is famous for saying that he "covets Shishka's laserdisc set," while Master Forum Ninja x Foman123 x often claims to own the DVD box set. After a few hours of mysterious confusion and pranking, the people who asked about the Halo Babies series are usually let in on the joke, so that they may continue its legacy against future unsuspecting new Bungie Community members.
Related External Links
- Halobabies.net, a Halo Babies fansite where several dedicated fans created comic strips based on the original Halo Babies joke. The comic strips are well-received by the Bungie Community and often poke fun at the Community and Bungie Studios. The comics are now hosted on HBO, as the site shutdown in 2009.
- The Definitive Halo Babies Episode Guide. Fansite which contains detailed descriptions of the cast and crew of Halo Babies, as well as amusing episode recaps.
- /r/halobabies is a subreddit dedicated to the old Halo Babies website and acts as a "guest book" to those who use to visit the site but were abruptly unable to communicate anymore.