Eleanor Hanwell
Eleanor Hanwell on 3 May 2021

5 Reasons why Animation is powerful at tackling tricky subject matter

If you’ve read our No Nonsense Guide to Animation you’ll already have a pretty good idea as to the power of animation and how it can be useful. But in this blog, we’re going to delve into what makes animation such a powerful tool for tackling tricky subject matter.


1 – Less is More

With sensitive topics we can often fall back on showing graphic images to get an immediate emotional reaction from our audience. But should we? Although graphic images can evoke a reaction and emotion response, sometimes our audience can be so affected by this tactic that they are paralysed from taking action.

With animation we can take a ‘less is more’ approach. Rather than being explicit, we can use visual and audio hints to imply the action. This means our viewers need to fill in the gaps, which can lead to a more effective emotional experience.

For example, in our animation for the Hamlet, we used a journey on a bicycle to explore the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a parent with disabilities. We used weather to show the unpredictability of the experience day-to-day, sounds of traffic to reflect feeling of chaos and isolation and then birdsong to show the sense of relief through finding people to relate to. 

The end result allowed us to tell a story with elements that anyone can relate to whether they are in the same situation or not.


2 – We don’t need to ‘see’ ourselves

Videos with characters are incredibly powerful when we ‘see’ ourselves in the story. But when we include one type of person, we are often excluding many others. 

With animation we don’t have to rely on ‘real’ people and instead can create characters from scratch, whether that’s animals, aliens or blobs with faces! Having a character that is not confined by gender, race or age, opens up the ability that many people can connect with the emotions of the character and ultimately the animation.

In this animation describing empathy, the characters are all animals. This approach means we concentrate on relating to the situations shown and the emotional responses, rather than worrying about whether we are the fox, bear or goat. The result is that many different people from different backgrounds can relate to the experiences of the characters and the message of the animation.



3 – It’s easier to use humour

When you have an important message to communicate, humour can often be your best tool. Our audience wants to be entertained and using humour can ensure you hook their attention and keep it until your message sticks. We’re also more likely to remember something that made us laugh, so humour can be a fantastic combination of engagement and retention.

But it’s sometimes tricky to get humour right! Which is where animation comes in, it has plenty of benefits when it comes to approaching humour. Firstly, it is visual, so it can include plenty of sight gags. As animation includes motion but not the laws of physics, it’s also possible to include exaggerated and often illogical elements of humour.

We can also create humour that works without speech (or with nonsense speech). Not using speech (or not relying on it) means the humour can reach a wider audience as it works for all ages and those who speak different languages. Think about cartoons and how many of the stories work without speech or are still funny even when the sound is turned off.

Take this example, where we can follow the emotions of the main character in the story without any recognisable speech. Through this animation we are able to be entertained watching the old lady and it isn’t until the end that we understand the full message about kindness and not making assumptions about someone based on their appearance.



4 – Everything can be simplified

With animation because we are creating everything from scratch it can be much easier to simplify what happens onscreen to the essential elements. This makes it easier to concentrate on the core message or emotions and make them easier to understand.

This is why animated explainers can work particularly well for children. You can take a scary or complicated topic and distil it down to a simple story for them to follow. This is what we did in this animation for the British Heart Foundation. We were able to take the steps a child would go through in both leading up to and after a heart operation, to reassure children who were going to go through the process.

Using an animation allowed us to show all the different steps of the process without any scary real-life imagery that might detract from the overall message. 


Equally in this example of an animation for PloughShare we needed to show the end result of how their complex technology could assist banks. We did this through a simple traffic light system for the characters, showing using green, amber and red the level in which they were in financial distress. It allows the audience to zone into the benefit the technology can bring to businesses and individuals.   


5 - The characters aren’t ‘real’

When we watch an animation, we know that the characters aren’t ‘real’ – knowing this gives us permission to laugh at them, not worry when they get hurt and accept when their actions are simplified or not dictated by physics. 

Using animated characters also gives us separation from the difficult situation or taboo subject being presented, while still being entertained enough to follow the story. It also means when we start to relate to the characters despite the fact that they aren’t ‘real’, the emotions we feel are sometimes all the greater.

For example, the below animation from WaterAid tells the story of a little girl from Madagascar, attempting to fly to Mars in a homemade rocket in order to collect water for her family. As it is an animation, we can ignore the physics of the prospect and instead get lost in the emotions of the story, which mean the ending is all the sweeter.


Let’s get animating!

Thanks for reading our top 5 Reasons why Animation is a powerful tool for tackling tricky subject matter, we hope it’s helped you see how animation might be the best option for your next tricky video project. 

Why not book a call with our team to see how we can help you create animations that work.

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