Animated Video Production

4 Explainer Videos Hidden in Major Hollywood Movies

Shawn Forno 02.01.2017

So you think animated explainer videos are boring. That’s ok. At first glance, explainers might seem a little dull or dry—not something you’d ever see in something exciting or like a major Hollywood movie, right?

Wrong.

Explainer videos—particularly animated explainers—are such an effective way to communicate a lot of information in a short time that they’re practically a staple of big budget Hollywood’s films. Don’t believe me? Here are just four examples of animated explainer videos that are essential to the success of some of the biggest movies of the past three decades. Enjoy.

Jurassic Park (1993) — Mr. DNA Sequence

Yeah. Gotcha on the first one. You forgot all about that animated DNA strand explaining the incredibly technical details of gene splicing, cloning, and science that’s so complicated it didn’t even exist at the time.

The best part about this clip is that it answers a simple question that not only the characters in the film are wondering, but the viewer at home (or in theaters) is pondering too—where do you get a 100 million year old dinosaur?

This clip is a classic explainer video. It uses traditional 2D animation, compelling character voice acting, exciting transitions, humor, and a lively narrative to explain a sophisticated process. It defines terms, lays out the procedure, and answers questions the viewer hasn’t even asked yet. It’s just such a solid example of what explainer videos do well.

animated explainer videos

This explainer video sets the stage for the rest of the movie. It’s the foundation that lets you accept the rest of the outlandish plot with a shrug. Well done, Mr. DNA.

Ocean’s 11 (2001) — The Plan

Remember the scene where the infamous “11” all gather together to hear the master plan for the very first time? George Clooney runs down every step of this hair-brained scheme—complete with all the details and every single complication they’ll run into. Armed guards. Cameras. Ground sensors. Lasers. Las Vegas itself. It’s a beautiful scene, and it gets you so pumped about how the gang is going to pull off this incredible heist.

Now watch that scene again, but picture the CGI graphics of the casino, elevator shaft, etc. as the only thing you see. Now add Clooney’s silky smooth voice explaining the heist on top of those images. Boom. You have an exquisite product explainer video. The CG animation lets you really grasp exactly what the team is trying to pull off. It puts you in a first person point of view. You’re watching the heist unfold right there in the room. It’s brilliant.

This explainer is full of technical details, schematics, and features, and the animation is so good it makes robbing a Las Vegas casino seem impossible. Almost.

The Life Aquatic (2004) — Let Me Tell You About My Little Boat

This explainer, while shot in live action, is set and dressed like a partitioned animation. Each room is open to the camera allowing for smooth transitions, and the set and framing are a perfect imitation of animation.

This scene is beautiful, and acts like an “About Me” style explainer video with details, stories, and history of the boat, the crew, and the company. It’s a beautiful video that builds a rich backstory and sense of place for the entire film, and lets viewers really wrap their heads around the tone of the film and the reality of the characters and their lives.

Complete with Bill Murray voiceover (yes please), and a soundtrack that elevates the theme of the explainer—light and playful, yet filled with wonder and purpose. This ship is about creative discovery, and that comes through loud and clear in this excellent example of the versatility of what an explainer can do to set the stage for a company (or a crew). Even the final shot is picture perfect.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2010) — The Tale of the Three Brothers

This animation is my favorite scene in the entire Harry Potter cinematic universe. It’s incredible. The style, tone, story, moral, and message are all exquisite. It forwards the plot, fills a massive narrative hole, creates mystery and intrigue, and thoroughly explains something that until this moment has been incredibly vague.

Namely—What are the Deathly Hallows?

The answer to a question from the titular character of the franchise is a big deal, especially when it’s revealed that the deathly hallows are the crux of the entire conflict. The wand, the stone, and the cape. The transition from live action to animation at 1:20 is perfect, and suspends doubt the way animation always does. You literally watch the screen warp and wave into a dreamlike world where of course Death (capital “D”) tricks and claims wayward travelers, and of course those travelers can bargain with Death (at their own peril).

The shift to animation is a fantastic way to explain the complicated history, power, and mystery of the Deathly Hallows. Hermione’s voiceover and the stylistic character design of the brothers and Death create a relentlessly compelling narrative. I learned a lesson from this parable, and it made me love this already fantastic film series even more. Which is really saying something.

Explainer Videos are Crucial for Understanding, Even in the Movies

Suspended disbelief is a hallmark of great films. We have to believe the characters live and breath on the screen, and that the plans they make, the boats they sail, the stories they tell, and the rationale for the plot makes some kind of sense. Explainer videos are an unparalleled way to bring a viewer up to speed on complicated topics, but they are also a straightforward tactic for bringing viewers into your world. Share the “how” and “why” of your company or product, and you’ll be surprised by how well people respond.

Let me know which explainer videos I should have included in this list, and sign up for our newsletter for new animation trends and today’s best video marketing strategies.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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