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Instructional Film

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The user-friendly way to impart information and training and a prime target for parody, the instructional film is a short presentation that has generally been created by a government department or a business to impart training or information on a specific area... cheese making, avoiding nuclear attack, understanding the Dewey decimal system, care and maintenance of the IBM System/360 mainframe... the list is endless.

Because of the need to educate the young and/or presumably ignorant, the intellectual level is often pitched very low indeed, leading to many of these films having a deeply condescending tone. They are also often vehicles for propaganda or contain the unconscious attitudes and biases of their producers.

They are rarely kept updated to current fashions; literal, intellectual, or cultural. Parodies usually have films in the style of filmreels from sometime between the 1930s and 1950s.


A particular target for parody is the specific sub-type, the fast-food training video.


Real Life

Played Straight

  • The DHARMA Initiative orientation films from Lost.
  • Team Fortress 2: The original release maps (as well as a few more recent maps) are introduced with a black-and-white instructional film explaining the map's objective and, sometimes, unique elements of its topology.
  • Tank Girl. When the title character infiltrates Liquid Silver, there's a video that trains new employees in how to dress themselves correctly. Of course, she pays no attention at all to it.
  • In The Vor Game, following the aftermath of the chemical cleanup incident that ends his tour of duty at Camp Permafrost, Miles Vorkosigan finds himself in quasi-exile assigned to ImpSec Headquarters. As a combination of spiritual exercise and stir-crazyness, he decides to view every training video in the military library in strictly alphabetical order during his off-duty hours. He is bemused at the 30-minute program under "H: Hygiene" which covers how to take a shower — presumably targeted at rural back-country draftees without previous exposure to indoor plumbing. After a month he manages to reach "L: Laser-rifle Model D-67; power-pack circuitry, maintenance, and repair" when the plot advances to the next stage of his adventure.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Hurricane Fluttershy" has an amusingly dated-looking one that explains how the pegasi use "tornado power" to get water to the weather factory in Cloudsdale for the rainy season.
  • The Office featured a version during their sexual harassment training, but because of the nature of the show, it comes across as almost a parody of the trope. Props to the producers who made it look authentically like a video from the Eighties.
  • Hyperdrive. Before making First Contact the crew have to watch a squick-inducing version of this trope warning them of the dangers of having sex with aliens.
  • Men in Black: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Florida has "Doofus and Do-Right", an animated short that explains what to do and what not to do when in MIB training.
  • In the Charby the Vampirate side comic Here There Be Monsters Blaine tries to force his hunters to watch a cheesy safety video he made after Victor gets injured on the job, the only hunter paying any attention whatsoever to the film is Mort.
  • Steven Universe: In "Joking Victim", Steven offers to help out at the Big Donut when Lars takes a day off, and Sadie shows him an old employee orientation video starring Mr. Smiley, owner of the local arcade and amusement pier, who apparently used to be in show-business. While Sadie looks increasingly bored with the video and its seemingly-endless musical jingles on safety and customer service, Steven is enthralled.


  • In Malcolm in the Middle, the orientation video Malcolm had to watch at Lucky Aide just SCREAMED 80s. It also revealed that Craig used to be a District Manager.
  • Buffy was forced to watch one when she took a job at a fast food joint.
  • Training with Hinako is an animated fitness video which a girl named Hinako supposed to give the viewers exercise instructions, though its more of an excuse to show a sweaty girl exercising with a "bouncy package".
  • When Angel took over Wolfram & Hart they made a new training video for employees, basically saying "Don't be evil and we won't kill you."
  • Despicable Me has one as a DVD bonus feature.
  • Paranoia adventure Vapors Don't Shoot Back. While the Troubleshooters are being transported in the flybot, they're shown an Old Reckoning U.S. Army parachute training film which will hopefully teach them enough to use the parachutes they've been given.
  • Walt Disney's Goofy starred in a long-running series of instructional video parodies on such subjects as:
  • Being John Malkovich has a very funny employee orientation film.
  • Before taking Driver's Education classes, Kim Possible and classmates watch an instructional video on safe driving that's both remarkably out of date (mentioning sock-hops and soda bars) and incredibly gory and graphic (judging by their reactions) in depicting the consequences of a crash.
    • Re-education sessions in the "A Sitch in Time" Bad Future begin with a short instructional/propaganda film clip of The Supreme One (future Shego) describing how she took over the world.
  • "Gunny Instructional Video" from The Damn Few.
  • Trailers and intros for the Fallout games, which cheerily promote Vault-Tec bunkers and the Atom Age life, before revealing the post-apocalyptic world it became.
  • Metal Arms: Glitch in the System features a Fifties-style film where the narrator cheerfully details the history of their planet and the Droids rebellion against a tyrannical regime of slavery and genocide.
  • The "Wiggy" segments from Canned Carrott.
  • In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where Sarah infiltrates a nuclear power station as a grunt worker, she is made to watch a comically old-fashioned orientation film. With sexy nuclear fuel rods.
  • The notorious German short film Forklift Driver Klaus is a gore-filled parody of a workplace instructional video.
  • Used as a Running Gag in Spider-Man: Homecoming with Captain America's videos on physical fitness, learning a lesson from getting detention, etc. The oddity of having the lessons presented by someone who is currently a wanted criminal is noted in-universe.
  • Robert Benchley's How to... series of short films in the 1930s, which consisted of him giving comically useless instruction on topics like How to Sleep, How to Train a Dog, and others.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus' classic sketch "How Not To Be Seen" is about how not to be seen... or rather, the slaughter that ensues (including the use of explosives) if the filmmakers see you or you haven't hid well enough from them.
  • StacheBros has "Donkey Kong Presents: How to be Dumb", in which Donkey Kong teaches the audience how to be stupid like him.
  • A Running Gag on The Simpsons is Springfield Elementary's use of instructional films that are no longer fit for purpose, if they ever were. Problems range from casual depiction of attempted suicide, videos about space travel that were poorly researched even for the 50's and transparent meat lobby propoganda that shows a bit too much detail on how slaughterhouses work.

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