Muppets, Stunts, and Illusions – Viral Video Round Up

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It’s time again for our weekly Viral Video Round Up series, where we analyze the very hottest viral video hits for clues about how we, too, can go viral.  We have some excellent examples this week—including a bonus forth example beyond our traditional three—and some great reminders and nuggets of wisdom we can all apply to our own viral efforts.  Let’s dive in.

The Muppets Are Back!

By that I mean that the Muppets have released another viral video effort.  I also mean, in a more general way, that I’m quite pleased to see that the Muppet property seems to be in good hands.  I grew up on the Muppets.  And for the last 10-15 years, it’s been sort of sad to see such lovable characters given such lousy material and support.  It was only six or seven years ago I went on a quest to find all the Muppet movies on DVD, and they were… how shall I put this… so rare as to basically not exist.  You could pay $100 on eBay for a used copy of The Great Muppet Caper if you wanted to, but why would you?

And then came Disney.  Disney bought the Muppets several years back and has been promising to revive the franchise in a way that does it justice.  First, they repackaged and released all the Muppet movies (and the classic television show) on DVD.  A few of the Muppets appeared in a series of online video shorts related to the finale of Lost, interacting with the creators and auditioning for roles.  They are also currently working on a new movie, with Jason Segel (of How I Met Your Mother fame) serving as the writer.  And late last year they started slowly rolling out a series of online video shorts designed to remind the public that the Muppets aren’t dead.  First was the Bohemian Rhapsody—still one of my favorite videos.  Then came Beaker’s Dust in the Wind cover.

And now we have Sam The Eagle taking on a karaoke version of American Woman:

Maybe I just can’t resist a good Muppets clip.  Or maybe there are signs of life in this franchise yet.  After a series of TV-movie duds, it’s encouraging to see funny material like this.  And it’s cute to see them incorporating current technology trends such as this video’s nod to YouTube.  It makes me feel that maybe the Muppets are finally in safe, hip hands.

And it’s a good lesson on not giving up on old properties.  I wrote earlier this week about how important it is to make use of video you already have produced in your online campaigns.  In a way, that’s what Disney’s doing.  They’re recognizing potential in 40 year old characters and attempting to breathe new life into them.  I may be a touch biased, but I’m pulling for them.

The Brave Idiot

I think it’s probably a safe bet that anytime you perform a feat whose title ends with “… off the Eiffel Tower,” you’re going to get some attention.  Parachute Off the Eiffel Tower, Throw Things Off the Eiffel Tower, or in the case of our second video… Jump Off the Eiffel Tower… on rollerblades.

Well, to be fair, he jumped off about the lowest part of the Eiffel Tower possible, but it’s still pretty darn high.  But it’s not like he leaped off the very top of the thing.

Take a look:

Now, I’m barely a good enough rollerblader to stand up straight in them.  So someone simply skating down the sidewalk is a relative miracle in my eyes.  I am, therefore, pretty impressed with this stunt.  But he does make it look like it’s not a big deal… like it was easy.  I’m sure it wasn’t, mind you.

Absurd and dangerous stunts are a popular type of video online (stunts gone wrong is an even more popular genre).  Unfortunately, it does sometimes lead to amateur backyard stunts where people get hurt.

But we love to see people risk their lives, particularly when it involves jumping.  I can’t in good conscience suggest that small and medium businesses create videos of employees doing their best Super Dave impression.  Those videos are best left to the professionals… and the idiotic.

But we can learn something about risk, I think.  After all, that’s the draw of videos like this, I think.  The risk.  And risk is something all businesses and entrepreneurs can relate to.  When formulating your next online video strategy, consider finding a way to tell a story about how your company sticks its neck out… has some guts.  Does something bold and brave.  How have you gambled and won?  And how can you tell that story with online video.

Oh, and consider throwing in the Eiffel Tower as well if you can work it into the script.

The Artist’s Illusion

In addition to being a Muppets fan, I’m also fond of optical illusions.  From my old textbook examples to modern day image and video illusions online, I never tire of them.  I’m pretty certain I’m not alone in this too, because I see an awful lot of this kind of thing online.  But rarely is it done so well as our next example.

Here we have an artist that has created some works in Photoshop, printed them out, and then combines them on film to complete some truly astounding optical illusions.  In each sample he provides, two images superimposed create a moving image.  It’s hard to get your head around, actually.  Here… you try:

I call this person an artist because this feels like the work of something more than a science nerd.  I’m not sure if it’s the artwork that he produced to form the illusions or the way the video is shot and edited… or simply just the beauty of the illusion itself… but this feels almost as much like art as it does an experiment or scientific study.

And I think that’s a key element of its popularity and charm.  It’s every bit as beautiful as it is fascinating.

As always, great talent wins out.  As does obvious effort.  And this shows both.  I nearly broke my brain trying to figure out how one creates these separate images so precisely as to cause the eventual illusion, or how his mind could even think that way.

People love to be amazed, and optical illusions are—almost by definition—lessons designed to amaze.  Toss in some added talent, hard work, and art… and this thing was nearly destined to gain fans.  Want to waste an afternoon?  Check out this guy’s other video illusions.

Bonus Example!

I have to mention the Magic iPad guy.  It’s too neat to ignore.  And probably best to give you as little set up as possible:

Here’s what I love:  The guy clearly isn’t very polished.  Several of his “tricks” show some timing issues on his part.  I’m not sure if he didn’t rehearse a lot, or if he’s camera shy and was nervous.  Or maybe he just doesn’t care.

But the online audience doesn’t seem to mind, as he continues to gain viewers, and I think it’s chiefly because he’s doing some pretty clever and inventive things here.  Give this guy credit for the concept, even if the execution isn’t pitch perfect.  It probably doesn’t hurt that the iPad is still one of the single most-talked-about gadgets on the planet, and always an added draw.  Hop on the hot topics, people, and bend them into your own concept somehow.  And he’s also displaying more of that “obvious hard work” I like to talk about, because it’s evident that some significant measure of planning went into this video.  From an idea standpoint, it’s a wonder Apple themselves didn’t think of something like this.

Honorable Mention:

If I had more time, I would have enjoyed talking about these other viral hits as well:

  • Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) from Tropic Thunder doing promos for MTV with Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner (both from Twilight).  This is probably one of the best Tom Cruise characters in history.
  • An innocent bystander narrowly avoids death by car accident.


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