OverSimplified is a popular educational YouTube channel, with 3.8 million subscribers. The channel was created in 2006 under the name “Webzwithaz” and its earliest upload is dated October 21st, 2016. It grows by roughly 6,600 subscribers every day. One in 100 of the channel’s 500,000 daily viewers eventually subscribes to the channel.

The content

The channel has a winning formula. First, an After-Effects animated intro skit with simple characters and hand-drawn backgrounds introduces the video topic. Then, OverSimplified’s narration contextualizes the time period. The characters at this point exist for bait-and-switch style visual gags.

Only the jokes range in historical accuracy. They serve the purpose of keeping the channel’s young viewers engaged while their teacher sifts through lesson plans. In between each fact is a humorous dramatization where the narrator plays every character. There are also a lot of references to “Six”, the musical.

OverSimplified’s video “The Russian Revolution (Part 1)” Image courtesy: OverSimplified – YouTube

Oversimplified’s videos introduce complex topics like imperialism and foreign alliances and re-contextualize them in a way kids can understand, explaining them in great detail. Video topics lead directly into others, creating a holistic format ideal for binging. Other than the chronological events, history often isn’t the focus.

In fact, a recurring theme throughout OverSimplified’s videos is the consequences of one’s actions, large and small. He proposes what-ifs and alternate takes on historical events with one pointed question, “Can one person truly make a difference?”

The money

OverSimplified generates somewhere between $80.6k and $1.3m a year from YouTube views alone, according to SocialBlade. Although, a fair amount of its financial success comes from typical YouTube sponsors like NordVPN and Honey. With the clear simplicity of these characters, it’s no wonder the channel also has its own merch store. While there is always room on YouTube for competition, especially in the vein of Bill Wurtz, OverSimplified’s success may be a tough nut to crack.

The process

After Effects and Adobe Photoshop bring every character, background and explosion on screen to life. OverSimplified utilizes the creative commons library of musician Kevin MacLeod for ambiance. MacLeod’s background music pairs with OverSimplified’s third-person storytelling in a way we encourage you to hear for yourself.

The channel’s editing looks ripped straight out of a PBS documentary. Online content producers, take note. Not every statistic needs an info-graphic. Evidently, you can be informative without being boring.

In the style of YouTube enigma HowToBasic, OverSimplified has on occasion teased a face reveal, to no avail. However, he didn’t get number one on the YouTube trending page without listening to his audience.

The fans

OverSimplified has a dedicated Twitter, Discord and Subreddit. The latter two are mainly run by fans, and the former is maintained by the editor himself. Both platforms host polls that determine the subject of OverSimplified’s future content.

For example, back in April 2020, the Napoleonic Wars (355 votes) beat out the Vietnam War (334) and the Texas Revolution (97). Though the Napoleonic Wars were touched on in the channel’s Russian Revolution video, at least one of the three videos is currently in progress.

The OverSimplified Discord channel is more in-depth with its political commentary and overall channel discussion, and Reddit is a tool for memes and fan art. During the art phase of editing, OverSimplified sneaks gags in the background of scenes. This leads to discoveries that are worthy of their own forums.

For instance, Reddit user aghostisborn found McDonald’s Fries in the Russian Revolution. This is the kind of humor that his Gen-Z fanbase can relate to and run with.

The style

From OverSimplified’s video “The Russian Revolution (Part 1)” Image courtesy: OverSimplified – YouTube

The character designs most closely resemble those of Cyanide & Happiness, a black comedy comic strip turned YouTube channel, turned TV show, turned video game. C&H produces more raunchy content than its lookalike, though some of the more subtle gags are reminiscent of OverSimplified.

Both channels use characters with blocky bodies, flexible sticklike limbs and oversized heads. Faces tend to lack noses and ears, in favor of expressive eyebrows and mouths.

While OverSimplified depicts historical figures, who are easily depicted in period wear, C&H uses facial hair and different colored clothes to distinguish characters from one another.

OverSimplified’s backgrounds are also more detailed because C&H goes for a less visually detailed, more cinematic approach. In terms of cinematography, think of Cyanide and Happiness as a network TV show and OverSimplified as a stage play.

Though they subscribe to the same school of historical recollection, Bill Wurtz has a Twitch Channel and OverSimplified does not. Their editing styles are similarly humorous and concise, and Wurtz makes his own music for each video.

Though OverSimplified’s music choices are great, something about music made with specificity in mind just elevates video content. Rather than focusing on people, Wurtz personifies inanimate objects like bridges and planets, giving every concept an ethereal feel.

When Wurtz and OverSimplified collaborate, they strike a hypnotizing balance. We hope to see them collaborate again soon, with Wurtz diving into less holistic topics and OverSimplified with fantastical synth tracks behind his videos.

Final thoughts

OverSimplified’s success only proves that educational channels can bring in viewers, so long as the content is engaging and entertaining.