The Shortest Mystery You’ve Ever Watched

Tonight, I decided to make a 6-second murder mystery movie. A fun mix of Hercule Poirot, online pop culture, and corny jokes. It was a satisfying little animation, but I hid so many jokes that I wanted to put them all together for people (like me) who love this kind of stuff :) First, the video:

And now for the secrets and SPOILERS! Do not read beyond these dotted lines if you haven’t tried to solve it yet. It will make the spoilers more fun.


Okie dokie, did you figure it out? There are 6+ clues so hopefully you were able to catch one. Anyway, to begin with, we’re on a train (à la Orient Express). I made the video in After Effects and hand drew all the stuff you see. I wanted to do an Agatha Christie / Wild West railroad theme in the very beginning but that changed as I started drawing. Here were my quick style ideas:

As for the characters, we have:

  • Grumpy Cat. The reason why I chose a cat will be obvious once we get to the killer. In the beginning it was just a big fat cat, but then I remembered how much I hate Grumpy Cat and decided he was the perfect victim. Here’s an early shot:
  • A Good Apple. This is obviously not the killer. Just look — he has a paper with an A+ (proof of his virtue)! Only bad apples turn out to be killers.
  • Sophie la Giraffe. My daughter gave me her Sophie toy while I was making this, so she made the cut. Also, I used her spots for clue #1 in the movie: after the murder you can see an arrow and the word ROVER in her neck.
  • The Deviled Egg. Ha, egg jokes crack me up. This dude moved around a couple of times because it was hard to see him. Also, hint #2: his eyes turn into the NASA logo after the murder.
  • The Robot. I like this guy. He’s got cute little feet you can’t really see (but they’re there!). He gives hint #3: the binary letters translate into NASA.
  • Jake the Dog. I am obsessed with Adventure Time. I fantasize about working for the show. It is the show I wish I had made. It speaks to everything in me that was powerful when I was an imaginative little boy. Jake gives a hint (too weak to be counted as a real hint) by pointing at the criminal. His hand is barely visible at the bottom of his seat.
  • Woodman. If you’ve seen my Vines, you know this guy. Had to add in my old buddy.
  • Greg & his Frog (various names). If you haven’t seen Over the Garden Wall, look it up online. It’s a magical little short mystery story and it is beautifully animated. No secrets here :)
  • Tintin. You cannot have an animated mystery without our little Belgian sleuth. I was going to have him give a hint but ran out of time. Side note: Tintin is my animated celebrity doppelgänger.
  • The Red Haring. Every murder mystery needs a red herring. (Gonna let that sink in) This is probably the most satisfying visual pun I’ve ever made. If you don’t know who Kieth Harring is, definitely look him up. He is the artist who made me want to study art history when I was 15.
  • The Mars Rover. So here we have him, our killer. Why, you ask, would we have something as universally loved as the Mars Rover play the role of a murderer? Because… (wait for it) … Curiosity killed the cat. Boom. (Clarification: the Mars Rover is named Curiosity). This brings me such joy. Other note: you can find Hint #4 after the murder on his blood-stained wheels.
  • Poop Emoji & The Pigeon. I don’t know, I just really like pigeons. And everyone poops. Everyone.

As for other clues in the video, we have 2 hidden messages. The first is on the floor next to the victim:

The Morse Code reads out “JPL” which, in turn, stands for Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Fun fact: the Mars Rover actually leaves this as a tire mark on Mars. :)

The final clue is in the ceiling. The clip starts with the letters M V E M J S U N. These are the letters of planet names, and it broke my heart to leave off Pluto. Also, high 5 if you grew up with the expression, “Mornings Very Early Monkeys Jump Sideways Under Newborn Plants” to remember the order.

Anywho, after the murder, the M for Mars turns into an X. Crafty, eh?

Et voila, there you have it! Pretty incredible how much you can fit into the world’s shortest mystery movie. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have and remember: creativity rules. :)

For more creative storytelling, check this out: