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The Art of the Airplane Safety Video

May 26, 2010

virgin.jpegIt struck me the other day as I was flying back to San Francisco from Los Angeles that there's an art to producing a great airline safety video. I think Virgin America has cracked it with its wonderfully tongue-in-cheek animated film.

The four-minute-thirteen-second film, which was created by Wild Brain animation in San Francisco and produced by Anomaly in New York, was made three or four years ago and I've seen it on Virgin flights many times. It's the only safety video that I've ever really paid attention to and the other airlines still have a lot to do to catch up.

The main goal of any airline safety video should be to grab people's attention as the information on them is important (even if passengers think they know it all.) But few airlines both to create a video that keep eyeballs on the screen.

The reasons that the Virgin film succeeds are:

1. It plays up the fact that people are bored of these announcements and makes a virtue of the yawn factor. For example, the instructions about how to buckle and unbuckle a seat-belt come with narration that's delivered in a patient tone and goes something like this: "For the 0.000000001 of you who've never worn a seatbelt..." And the images on screen show a sweetly clueless matador attempting the maneuver while his bull looks on in vague disdain.

2. The animation is imaginative and whimsical. The characters are very two-dimensional and have a sketchy, pencil-drawn look, but they have funny, incongruous features such as a fish head in a suit.

3. For the two reasons stated above and many more, the film is funny. It managed to turn a dry and boring subject into something entertaining.

The video can be viewed on YouTube, here.

Virgin America released the film in 2007 but other airlines haven't followed suit with interesting films. I know the airline industry isn't in a financial position these days to spend a lot of money refreshing their safety videos. But perhaps they should start to make this a priority. Passenger safety is, after all, no laughing matter :)


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