Everyone knows that whiteboard animation and explainer videos are great for explaining complicated topics. It’s in the name. This style of video is often used by tech startups to show off the newest features of flashy apps. But a great explainer video doesn’t have to look like the brainchild of a corporate synergy business meeting. In fact, one of our favorite explainer videos looks like it was made by a kid.
Explain It To Me Like I’m a Kid
When the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office set out to make an animated video explaining tenant rights under Fair Housing Regulations, they turned to an unlikely source for inspiration—children. They held an elementary school poster contest. Then they asked IdeaRocket to create an explainer video from the winning entry.
“As soon as I heard the concept, I was really excited about the possibility of creating an animation in a children’s art style,” explains IdeaRocket’s Creative Director, Will Gadea. “The idea of approaching an issue like fair housing from a kid’s point of view, with kid’s art was really powerful.” The result is one of the most innovative (and fun!) explainer videos we’ve ever made. See for yourself.
Picking a Winning Design
Housing law may not be everyone’s idea of entertaining subject matter, so hooking viewers with a compelling angle and great character design was key. Seventh grader Peter Riedel delivered all that and more with his design.
“We were looking for a student poster that had plenty of character and style for carrying an animation across the goal line,” says Deputy City Attorney, Gary W. Rhoades. “As soon as Andrea Cavanaugh and I saw the wheelchair-using, eye-patch-bearing ‘John’ on Peter’s colorful poster, we knew we had a winner.”
The Santa Monica City Attorney’s office liked Peter’s contest-winning design (and the subsequent video) so much that they held a public screening of the explainer video on October 18th, 2017. The event featured an interview with Peter, a presentation on the implications of the Fair Housing Act by Rhoades, and a life-size cutout of the video’s protagonist, “John.”
The video shows what tenants, regardless of disabilities or special circumstances, should expect from landlords and properties under California Fair Housing Regulations. While Riedle provided some fantastic concept art, Gadea confesses that turning a seventh grader’s poster into a full-fledged animation is more challenging than you might think.
“I’m a big fan of children’s art. It’s a fresh view of life,” explains Gadea. “But our designers had to unlearn how to draw, essentially.”
“I hadn’t really done a lot of hand-drawn animation since my college years,” admits Director/Animator, Scott Strong. “This project benefited greatly from the imperfections of a human’s touch, so I decided to hand-draw the animation. I was actually re-familiarizing myself with long-dormant skills!”
The project came together when Gadea suggested a live-action introduction. “We suggested that we film Peter with his art, then zoom in to kick-off the animation with Peter reading from a script.” After that, the message takes center stage, and that’s the whole point—the message.
Rhoades agrees, “When you have the right production team, you can achieve your exact vision for the project—and then make it even better. That’s what happened here. IdeaRocket and Peter did such a great job with the animation, along with our feedback at every step, that we got our dream animation.”
Clarity and Simplicity Guides Animation
Even the script was carefully crafted to match a young person’s way of speaking. It helped illustrate the idea that anyone can understand Fair Housing laws. That clarity and simplicity are exactly why Rhoades brought kids into this unique project in the first place:
“We saw animation as a way to creatively raise fair housing awareness and bring complicated fair housing law to laypersons. The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office has sponsored a fair housing poster contest with local students for many years. Hundreds of students participate each year and from the many works of art that we see, it’s been clear to us that kids bring a vibrant understanding to the issue of equality in housing.”
Explaining Complicated Topics
Santa Monica’s Fair Housing video highlights all the classic strengths of animated explainer videos. The video grabs viewers right off the bat with a unique idea and interesting, colorful visuals. Then, it keeps people hooked with a narrative that delivers clear, concise information in under a minute. It’s a total slam dunk.
Santa Monica’s Fair Housing video is cute, eye-catching and memorable, but it also conveys exactly what the City Attorney’s Office wanted to say. It succeeds at explaining complicated topics in an accessible way. Whether you’re using slick graphics or children’s drawings remember that all the elements of an animated explainer video should work toward one goal—getting your point across.