As Air New Zealand plays it safe with their latest video and returns with a rugby theme, Eli Orzessek measures up the national carrier's "first 15".
I've never been much of a fan of Air New Zealand's novelty safety videos.
In 2016, following the release of "Safety in Hollywood" starring Rhys Darby and Anna Faris, I channelled my annoyance into a rant about them, where I went as far as to sympathise with Sir Bob Jones.
That's not to say I hate all of them all – the airline's 2016 ode to summer road trips, set in the beautiful Bay of Islands caused me to start to change my tune.
However, after nearly a decade of Air New Zealand's comedy stylings, it has become clear that some of them are definitely more watchable than others.
So I took it upon myself to watch them all – even the ones that have been removed from the official Air New Zealand YouTube channel – and rank them from best to worst. Trust me, it wasn't an easy undertaking – but I do feel like I'm well and truly versed in what to do "in the event of an emergency".
Read on, for a rollicking journey through the highs and lows of the Air New Zealand Safety Video.
1. Summer of Safety (2016)
This video is my personal favourite because it does everything it should – shows off New Zealand and presents a safety video while keeping the annoyance to a low level. Set in the Bay of Islands, Jayden Daniels from Shortland Street stars in this one – not really recognisable to international visitors, but that might be a good thing – along with Rachel Hunter and Ladyhawke. When I saw it on my flight home from Tokyo, it actually made me feel slightly better about coming home – and the Japanese tourists on my flight seemed to like seeing the kiwi.
Plus there's a dog wearing a lifejacket and oxygen mask – who could hate on that?
2. The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made (2014)
While Middle-earth fatigue had well and truly set in by the third Hobbit film, this video isn't too cloying – and we may as well show off what we're known for. There's plenty of stunning scenery to admire, even if you're not a fan – and Taika Waititi is pretty great as Gandalf. The safety message is quite central - and unlike an earlier offering, we're not subjected to any hairy feet.
3. Crazy About Rugby (2011)
This early offering seems quite quaint and low budget compared to what we're seeing in 2018. Released on domestic flights for the Rugby World Cup, this one features Richie McCaw as the pilot – not much of a stretch – along with other All Blacks greats, past and present. While unofficial rugby anthem Why Does Love Do This To Me gently plays in the background, a flight attendant uses a delightfully retro flip phone – it's also rather novel to see a safety video that actually takes place on a plane. The old lady streaking at the end is a bit much though.
4. The Bear Essentials of Safety (2013)
Brought back to replace Air New Zealand's controversial swimsuit video, in this video we see British survivalist Bear Grylls take on the Routeburn Track. I'm a fan of safety videos that actually show our country off, and this one does a good job of that – and the "moa" is a nice touch. There's enough energy to keep you engaged, but not so much that it gets on your nerves. And the action doesn't distract too much from the safety message – although the glow worm "escape path lighting" is a bit abstract.
5. Safety Old School Style (2013)
Golden Girl Betty White presents this "old school" safety video set in a retirement home in Florida – the description on YouTube tells me it was tied to a competition to win either a trip to Florida … or Hamner Springs. It's quite amusing, but doesn't really have much relevance to New Zealand. Perhaps a bit insensitive to elderly people as well? At this point, the safety messages are starting to get a bit lost in the production.
6. It's Kiwi Safety
Doing a musical safety video is a risky choice – see the terrible Men in Black Safety Defenders – it's extremely easy to lose the safety message in the song. Air New Zealand's latest remakes Run DMC's It's Tricky and local hip hop classic In the Neighbourhood by Sisters Underground. It's definitely a million times more listenable than Israel Dagg's flow – perhaps because it starts actual rappers Kings and Randa – but you can't help but feel it won't be universally understood. And that's rather important for a safety video, at the end of the day.
However, it does showcase New Zealand and features load of local talent – though maybe OMC's How Bizarre would've been a better choice than It's Tricky.
7. Safety in Paradise
Air New Zealand chose to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue with a safety video starring models Christie Brinkley, Hannah Davis, Jessica Gomes, Ariel Meredith and Chrissy Teigen in the Cook Islands. The video was slammed by many as sexist, with one Australian traveller starting a petition to remove it.The video was later pulled by the airline, but it denied it was anything to do with the backlash.
Controversy aside, it's a decent advertisement for a popular Air New Zealand destination. And you can be forgiven for showing a bit of skin on a tropical island.
8. A Fantastical Journey (2017)
Opening with Katie Holmes butchering the pronunciation of Samoa, Air New Zealand presented us with an insufferably twee dose of magic realism in this video, which also stars Cuba Gooding Jr. The choice of celebrity hosts seems quite random and the scene where Cuba dips a marshmallow in a mudpool at Rotorua is just plain disturbing.
However, the beautiful footage shot around New Zealand makes up for the weirdness – even the giant flight attendants.
9. Surfing Safari (2015)
Legends of surfing show off legendary surf breaks in New Zealand and around the world in this video. Filmed mostly at Piha, it was criticised by the CAA for distracting from the safety message. Perhaps it's true – rewatching the video, the slow motion surf shots are so relaxing that it's easy to zone out and miss the important stuff. It still looks nice, although it was eventually pulled.
10. Safety with Rico (2010)
One of Air New Zealand's weirder safety videos starred a strange muppet called Rico, who was apparently some sort of South American rat. Like other early Air New Zealand videos, it feels very novel that it's set on an actual plane. At the time, Air New Zealand staff members were unhappy about Rico's "saucy humour" trivialising the safety messages.
If only they could have seen what the future held – compared to more recent offerings, this video seems positively straight forward in retrospect.
Rico was eventually killed off.
11. Mile-high madness with Richard Simmons! (2011)
You wouldn't want to see this high energy offering on an early morning flight, that's for sure. Famed fitness instructor Richard Simmons uniquely annoying voice is impossible to ignore. One of Air New Zealand's earliest offerings, this one definitely got old fast. Come on everyone, let's pony!
However, seeing Paul Henry being told to "stop broadcasting" by Simmons before getting a kiss on a cheek saves the production.
12. World's Coolest Safety Video
Set in Antarctica, this video was slammed as being insensitive to the families of those who died on the fatal Mt Erebus plane crash in 1979 – Air New Zealand's worst air accident. They've probably got a point. It's also insensitive to passengers – because if you're aware of the plane crash, it's all you're going to think of when watching the video. Who needs that just before take-off? And even if you're ignorant to Erebus, this video is just kind of boring.
13. Bare Essentials of Safety
A pretty standard safety video, with one wacky twist – the cabin crew are wearing nothing but body paint as part of Air New Zealand's "Nothing to Hide" campaign. This is the earliest novelty safety video, the beginning of a disturbing trend.
14. Ed & Melanie's Safety Sketch
This could be ranked lower, but it's so boring that the annoyance factor is low. I'd never even heard of this video, let alone seen it, before I found it on YouTube. It's hosted by Ed O'Neill from Modern Family and Kiwi actress Melanie Lynskey, who are "joined by a host of other big name celebs from around the world" – well in the form of a kind of crappy cartoon, anyway. Highly forgettable.
15. Safety in Hollywood
Is this the moment Air New Zealand's safety videos truly jumped the shark? I believe so – and it's also the moment Rhys Darby jumped the shark. While he can be funny, his humour is based around how annoying he is – and this video is truly annoying. In this video, Darby teems up with Hollywood actress Anna Faris for some parodies of Hollywood tropes that go on for a painfully long time. The safety message is completely lost in the ridiculous performances and having seen it twice on flights was two times too many. Rewatching this was painful and I couldn't make it to the end.
16. Men in Black Safety Defenders
This is the safety video that tipped me over the edge in 2015. After seeing it one too many times while flying to Australia, I felt myself slipping into air rage territory. Just hearing the first lines of Israel Dagg's "rap" is giving me angry flashbacks – it turns out it is possible to rap and sound completely flat. The most annoying thing about this video is that you'd get the Men in Black song stuck in your head for your entire holiday. And it seems Air New Zealand is ashamed of this effort as well – it has disappeared from their official channel.
Originally publushed November 6, 18