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PICK OF THE WEEK: Mr. Seed (CGI Explainer)

Blake Harris 06.08.2016

If you care about your food, your children, or the future of all mankind, then ___________.

How many times in your life have you heard a bold, future-hangs-in-the-balance message that sounds something like that? Probably enough times to make you think twice. That’s normal. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been burned by blustery messages like that or maybe it’s because we occasionally feel burdened by them; either way, messages like that tend to go in one ear and out the next.

So to get us to hear these types of messages–to elevate them above the white noise–the messengers need to be savvy. They need to find a unique way to get the point across in a way that’ll make us listen. Which is a feat that’s accomplished amazingly well in our PICK OF THE WEEK: Seed Matter’s CGI explainer Mr. Seed.

Given that lofty lead-in, it’s only natural that you might be wondering: what, exactly, is this explainer video about? And the answer, ultimately, is that according Seed Matters–the organization behind this animated short–there are a few important things about the food we eat that most people don’t realize:

  • Six chemical companies control 63% of the seed market.
  • As a result of this majority control, the “Big Six” are generally able to determine the foods we eat.
  • The foods they determine almost always involves the user of chemicals, which has played a major factor in the nutrient decline of 43 food crops and comes with a significant cost to human health every year.
  • For example, in 2005 alone, the human health costs of agricultural pesticide exposure in the U.S. were more than $15 billion.

It’s fair to say that these are all things that most people would probably like to know. But, as alluded to above, this is the type of information that people have become immune to ignoring. So getting the message to resonate requires a clever approach. Something engaging, compelling and ideally unexpected. And from the moment that Mr. Seed (voiced by comedian Pete Holmes) opens his explicative-laden mouth, it becomes quite clear that’s exactly what this video. Here’s the CGI explainer:


  • Produced by Clif Bar Family Foundation
  • Concept by The Butler Bros.
  • Creative Directors: Adam Butler, Marty Butler
  • Art Directors: Allie Nordstrom, Marty Butler
  • Copywriters: Jeremy Spencer, Ryan Honey, Erik Enberg, Adam Butler
  • Designers: Craig Crutchfield, Hoang Nguyen
  • Producers: Vincent Calderon, Bridget Liddy, Christine Lopez
  • Directed by Buck
  • Executive Creative Director: Ryan Honey
  • Executive Producer: Maurie Enochson
  • Creative Director: Joe Mullen
  • Head of CG: Doug Wilkinson
  • Producer: Emily Rickard
  • Art Director: Laura Yilmaz
  • Character Design: Joe Mullen, Kenesha Sneed
  • Storyboards: Laura Yilmaz, Kendra Ryan, Craig Yamamoto
  • Voice of Mr Seed: Pete Holmes

3 Things We Loved About This CGI Explainer

1. The Protagonist

Given the subject, the worst thing an explainer video like this could be is dry or boring. The second worst thing is come off as overly preachy. Mr. Seed marvelously clears both those hurdles with great aplomb. There are a lot of reasons why this animated video is able to pull that off, but the biggest is because of the protagonist: Mr. Seeds himself.

Given that throughout the entire 3D animation, non-chemical seeds (like Mr. Seed) are defined by their wholesomeness, one would expect that the main character would embody this trait. But, in this case, one would be wrong. Bucking expectations for the sake of it typically doesn’t work, but clever execution can make that gamble work and boy does it here.

Instead of presenting a bland, milquetoast, I’m-the-good-guy protagonist, we get a hero who treats himself to dry-aged manure and beetle dung:

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.58 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.17.00 PM

That same sly, sarcastic tone is present in the character design as well:

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.17.24 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.17.25 PM

Mr. Seeds is quirky, but not goofy. He’s charismatic without being crass. And by presenting as such, a unshakeable likability and curiosity sets in for the viewer.

The danger, however, with this sort of protagonist presentation (meaning someone more sardonic than stoic) is that it can be hard to create a foil for them. A potential problem that, once again, is overcome with this…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.18.01 PM

and a little bit of this…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.18.12 PM 1

2. The Animated Video Within the Animated Video

One of the greatest parts of this video, and admittedly one that gets a bit forgotten after traveling through 3 minutes of 3D Animation, is the 2D animated sequence that opens the film.

Before ever meeting our protagonist and getting to the explicit central message, Mr. Seeds begins with a thirty-second opening sequence that’s crafted in an entirely different animation style. At first–with a happy sun and happy creatures–we believe that this is (unsurprisingly) a glimpse into a happy world.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.10 PM

But shortly thereafter, we come to realize–with expert pacing, I might add–that all of this sunshine is actually satire. What’s great is that the explainer never forcefully reveals that this sugar is actually saccharine, but gradually threads an ominous vibe through all the smiles.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.15 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.16 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.20 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.26 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.29 PM 1Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.16.30 PM 

All of which works not only as an impressive emotional plea to the viewer, but also serve a narrative purpose too as it puts us in the same position as Mr. Seeds (who we now learn has been watching the very same thing)

3. The One-on-None Karate Fight Scene

Sometimes just a single image can say it all…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.19.39 PM 1

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