YouTube isn’t only a rabbit-hole of time-wasting videos. You can be having fun while learning something new. Check out these YouTube channels that make animated videos to explain, educate, and entertain.
No, this list doesn’t include old stalwarts like CGP Grey, ASAPScience, Minute Physics, or Wendover Productions. We want to talk about some of the less heralded channels that follow the “animation for explanation” format. And yet, they deliver something new which is just as interesting and fascinating as the YouTube bigwigs.
1. Half as Interesting: Five Minutes of Fascination
Every Thursday, Half As Interesting releases a new video that packs a fascinating story into a tight five minutes. What’s awesome is that the channel isn’t dedicated to any broad topic, so you get astounding facts about a wide range of subjects.
The makers are the same people behind Wendover, so you’re assured of thorough research and thought-out arguments. For example, the featured video seeks to find out the longest drivable distance on Earth. They’re careful to lay out caveats, explain why certain routes aren’t possible, and then show you the longest possible connection. It’s a wild ride.
Half As Interesting doesn’t rely as heavily on humor as stalwarts like CGP Grey do, but maybe that’s for the better. These bite-sized lessons are entertaining because of the subject matter and given their short duration, it’s fun to learn too.
2. Second Thought: Going Beyond Fact
Like Half As Interesting, Second Thought doesn’t focus on one subject. So you’ll learn about enough diverse subjects rooted in science and fact, like the loneliest place in the universe, or a secret Soviet death island, or how one man cheated death 600 times.
Where it gets interesting is in exploring the unknown. Like some of the other great “what if” blogs and vlogs, Second Thought tries to answer the craziest hypothetical questions too. Videos include explorations into what happens after death, how to denuclearize the world, what would happen if people stop dying, and what would happen if oceans disappeared.
If I had a complaint, it would be that Second Thought’s videos don’t match the quality of their research and subject matter. They often look crude and amateurish. Nonetheless, with a new video every Friday, it’s a guarantee of something worth thinking about over the weekend.
3. WonderWhy: Detailed Explainers About Geography and History
Why are there two Congos? How logical are you? What’s the oldest country in the world? Why do the Dutch wear orange? WonderWhy is here to answer all these questions in entertaining videos.
The channel focuses more on our world’s geography, history, and culture. But once in a while, it will also divert to other topics like logic, astronomy, economics, and so on. On average, each video is about 15 minutes in length, so you will gain more than a cursory understanding of the subject.
Naturally, making such long videos takes some time, so you will find a new video every month or so at WonderWhy. But hey, it’s worth the wait to get all that knowledge while on your daily commute.
4. Business Casual: How Corporations Shape Our World
Business Casual puts an interesting twist on a seemingly boring subject. You probably suspect that companies and corporations are deeply rooted in our world today, and their actions shape much of our lives. Well, find out how.
Every two weeks, a new video looks at the story of a business and its dealings with a certain topic. Some examples include how the Korean War led to the birth of Samsung, how Coca Cola lost India and then won her back, and the rise of the world’s richest family, the Rothschilds.
The visual storytelling of Business Casual deserves a special mention. They edit the videos exquisitely and seem to have carved a style of their own that is refreshingly modern. Aided by the expert use of audio, this attention to detail is what makes even a drab subject into something worth watching for the 5-10 minutes of the video.
5. Suibhne: The Animated History of…
Who knew learning about the entire history of a country or its people could be this interesting? Suibhne presents animated videos on the fascinating tidbits of a nation’s history. They pepper the videos with humor, as well as real audio and pictures.
A lot of existing YouTube channels already try to teach history through an entertaining perspective. Yet Suibhne manages to stand out in that crowd. They’ll endear you with the little cartoon figurines and capture your attention with a well-scripted and acted voiceover. All in all, you’re generally having a good time while you learn.
It might seem like entertainment is the focus here, but there’s a surprising amount of research that goes into it. Using old recordings is a wonderful way of adding that authentic flavor to the videos.
A Hand-Picked Selection of Fascinating Videos
Any of these five channels are worth subscribing to, and in fact, I’d suggest adding them all your list. These channels upload no more than one video per week, so you won’t be overloaded with a bunch of pending videos in your “watch it later” playlist.
Alternately, you can check out our list of YouTube videos guaranteed to make you question everything. From finding out why February has 28 days to the science of binge-watching, there’s plenty of brain fodder here.