Making a mobile-home security system seem interesting is a very tall task. How do you make something so utilitarian seem dynamic, fun, and relatable?
“We wanted to get the nostalgia, that warm and fuzzy childhood feeling,” Carly Johnson, the project creator for GetSafe, told Inverse over the phone. A security system doesnt exactly conjure sentimentality, but Johnson wasn’t talking about home security. She was referring to the app-based home security company’s “Fortresses on Film” project, which gathered seven iconic movie locations and explored how to break in or bust out of each of them, using illustrative individual GIFs. Kitschy marketing gimmick? Sure. A little slice of pop culture that presents some of our favorite on-screen locations in a different context? Absolutely.
The first step was Johnson carefully curating a list of 12 film locations that would work best for the project, which had several requirements. “We just thought about some of the more popular movies out there, and some of our personal favorites,” Kip Wright, who worked on the creative team, said over the phone. “It was a brainstorming process all at once. My favorite is Home Alone.”
The final product features, in the case of Home Alone, 14 adorable GIFs with instructions for prospective home robbers who would prefer to avoid Kevin McCallister’s booby traps. Other entires into the series include very specific instructions for breaking into the Batcave via Wayne Manor from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy; make off with priceless treasure from One-Eyed Willy’s ship from The Goonies; cast a spell to enter Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies; navigate your way through the Goblin King’s castle from Labyrinth; avoid falling boulders from the temple in Raiders of the Lost Ark; and finish Frodo’s quest to Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings.
Johnson said the main inspiration behind the GIFs was to re-create the movies as a kind of simplified pictorial version of the choose-your-own-adventures books from the ‘80s and ‘90s. “The idea was just kind of how to digitize that, how can we make a little journey in GIF form,” she said. Granted, the GIFs aren’t interactive at all — they’re just moving images — but they make for an entertaining way to re-familiarize yourself with a kind of graphically catchy dollhouse look at locations from movies you’ve seen a millions times before.
Working with a pair of designers to create each GIF, Johnson started with the basics. “The first step I did was draw them out myself, and label all the steps for the designers with individual movements,” Johnson said, referring to moments like Indiana Jones not putting enough weight on the fertility idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark or Harry avoiding the Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter movies.
They also looked to fans of particular movies to help them out and make sure they weren’t missing anything obvious. “There’s lots of fans of these seven movies and they have a lot of drawings and art that were online, Johnson said. “That really helped us getting a sense of what fans liked about these locations.”
From there, once everybody was familiar enough with the movie locations, Johnson said they split the duties between both designers: “One was doing all the illustration for the GIFs, and once they were finished they’d move on to the next one, and the other designer then started animating.”
The challenge was to make the mini-digital journeys interesting, so choosing some iconic locations more difficult than the others, especially if all it took to get into a heavily fortified location was to fly your spaceship right into its trench. “We were going to do the Death Star,” Johnson said, “but there really isn’t that much protection on it and it was boring.”
Johnson said presenting these locations to audiences that had grown up memorizing them on screen was a bit like solving a puzzle. The key for the team was to hit all of the story beats, from the climb up Mount Doom to sliding down to One-Eyed Willys ship, and pare them down into inventive but familiar images. “Labyrinth had like 30-something steps, so we had to limit them, Johnson said. “You could have gone really in depth but we definitely wanted to keep each very general.”
Johnson said the team hoped to expand their GIF-able looks at popular fortresses from films into different mediums, like TV. “We can always do a part two,” she said. “Maybe Game of Thrones.” But if you’ve ever wanted a handy step-by-step guide into your favorite film fortifications, now’s your chance.
Check out hi-res versions of each GIF on GetSafe’s site here.