Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: Seinfeld Holidays (animated video)

Blake Harris 12.22.2015

Corporate rivalries are as old as corporations. Ford vs. General Motors. Coke vs. Pepsi. Sega vs. Nintendo. In battles like these, marketing can often play a transformative role. So it piqued our interest when Hulu—currently in the midst of a heated “streaming war” with Netflix—decided to center their holiday campaign around an animated video promoting Seinfeld.

For those unfamiliar with the Streaming War between Hulu and Netflix, it should be noted that up until this year it hasn’t really been much of a fight. With award-winning original series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, Netflix has consistently dominated the streaming landscape. As of late, however, Hulu has upped the ante. They’ve produced some interesting original series of their own and, more notably, this past April Hulu spent nearly $160 million for the exclusive streaming rights to Seinfeld. Which makes it all the more intriguing that Hulu would choose animation to brand and promote their flagship series.

But the boldness of Hulu’s choice is only part of the reason we’ve selected Seinfeld Holidays as our PICK OF THE WEEK. The larger reason we wanted to shine a spotlight on this animated video is because, in only thirty seconds, it manages to accomplish a variety of impressive feats…

Credits:

  • Director: Buck
  • Executive Creative Director: Ryan Honey
  • Executive Producer: Maurie Enochson
  • Creative Director: Joe Mullen
  • Producer: Billy Mack
  • Production Coordinator: Kaitlyn Mahoney
  • Storyboards: Kendra Ryan, Laura Yilmaz, Vincent Tsui, Tony Legato
  • Design: Kendra Ryan, Laura Yilmaz, Vincent Tsui, Audrey Lee
  • Cel Animation: Kendra Ryan, Laura Yilmaz, Vincent Tsui, Nick Petley, Phylicia Fuentes, Stephen Loveluck
  • Additional Animation: Nick Petley

3 THINGS WE LOVED ABOUT THIS EXPLANATION VIDEO:

1. Welcomes Viewers New and Old: Unlike most animated commercials, Seinfeld Holidays does not use a voiceover narration. Instead, the audio that drives the video forward (and informs the visual presentation) is a collage of sound bytes from Seinfeld. To longtime Seinfeld fans who recognize these quotes, this serves as a welcome reminder as to why they loved the show. At the same time, however, employing this technique risks alienating those who aren’t already fans. Yet despite the inherent risk, Seinfeld Holidays does a great job of mitigating that danger and actually manages to entice both viewers new and old.

It begins with the audio. Seinfeld Holidays opens with the character of Elaine (played by Julia Louis Dreyfus) saying this: “You want a Christmas card? You want a Christmas Card? Alright, here. Here’s your Christmas card!” Although the context of this dialogue is unknown to those unfamiliar with the show, the syntax of Elaine’s word accomplishes a couple critical things:

  • By speaking in the second person–and the repetition of her words–it feels as though she is talking to us, the audience.
  • By twice repeating “here,” she seemingly delivers on this thing that we in the audience didn’t even realize we wanted (but now suddenly do).

Meanwhile, the pitter-patter of Elaine’s words (question, question, statement, exclamation; all occurring in less than five seconds) is paired beautifully with the animation on screen.

We open on a playful-but-perturbed personification of Elaine:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 3.34.07 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 3.34.08 PM

Who then of course concedes to give us the “Christmas card.” Except instead of a conventional card (or perhaps her, depicted all card-like, simply stepping forward) she then unbuttons her blouse and flashes us with this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.38 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.39 PM

2. The Pop-Up Storybook Motif: The beauty of the sequence described above is that even if you don’t quite catch what’s happening the first time around (or understand, as a fan, the context of Elaine’s “flashing”), the visuals are here to hammer it all home.

What’s most impressive though is not what’s accomplished, by how it is all done. In particular, in the instance above, the punchline is delivered through a sort of pop-up storybook motif that continues through the video. This motif achieves a few nice and dynamically different things:

  • By “opening up” and inviting us in, it continually provides us with an accessible portal into the minutiae of the Seinfeld universe.
  • That storybook motif also pairs well with the romance and nostalgia of Christmas. Especially so as the Seinfeld references frequently relate to Christmas (or the beloved faux holiday Festivus)
  • And although this video is an example of 2D character animation, this technique gives viewer a sense of depth and a three-dimensional feel to all of the events on screen.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.43 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.42 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.41 PM

3. Building Words into Objects: Text is often one of the more difficult things to express in animation. Not because it presents a technical challenge, but rather an entertainment challenge. How do we fit words into the landscape and not distract the viewer or brake visual narrative to a thud?

One strong way to make this work is by treating the words as more than just letters. But rather as the foundation for a larger and visually alluring object.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.54 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.49 PM 1

It also helps–as accomplished nicely here–if you can keep the action around that object lively and find a narrative way to animated the text. Like this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.49 PM 1Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.49 PM

And this:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.53 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.54 PM 2

 Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.54 PM 1Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.54 PM 

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.54 PM 3Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 1.27.55 PM

The Seinfeld Holidays spot was directed by a design-driven collective called Buck. From offices in New York, Los Angeles and Sydney, Buck works with a broad range of clients in the advertising, broadcast, film and entertainment industries. To see more videos like this, please visit Buck’s page on Vimeo.

Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

Similar Stories