We are ready. In 2018 alone, critical successes like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Isle of Dogs, Mirai, and Night is Short, Walk On Girl exposed a hunger for animation that breaks free from the sameness of Pixar, DreamWorks, and that American house style. Cartoon is not a curse word; it’s just another medium rich with narrative potential.
Netflix has already carved a safe space for animation. They revived ’80s classics She-Ra, Voltron, and Castlevania into exceptional, relevant entertainments. Their partnership with Guillermo del Toro on Trollhunters recently expanded into an exclusive distribution deal for his upcoming Pinocchio. They house must-see anime like Attack on Titan, Death Note, One Punch Man, and Knights of Sidonia.
In their continuing adult animation domination, Netflix recently partnered with a pair of filmmakers that are simply impossible to resist. David Fincher and Tim Miller present Love, Death, & Robots which is a new animated anthology series that promises to push the boundaries of mainstream acceptance. The subject matter will range from everything from sentient dairy products, werewolf soldiers, robots gone wild, garbage monsters, cyborg bounty hunters, alien spiders, and blood-thirsty demons from hell. Yeah, these are not your average Saturday morning ‘toons.
As you can see from the above images, Fincher & Miller are not interested in pushing one particular style but several. They are also happily embracing their provocateur nature. The series draws influences from around the world and from every possible genre. So it’s not surprising that my first reaction to these shots was the same experience I had when I originally opened the pages of Heavy Metal magazine – “Whoa, this ain’t Disney.” Followed quickly by “Awesome” and “Gimme.”
This is not the first time that Fincher has partnered with Miller’s Blur Studios. Way back in 2009 we reported on the slow, long, process of Fincher & Miller adapting Eric Powell’s mondo bizarro comic book The Goon for the big screen. That saga of a mob enforcer throwing down with zombies and skunk apes sadly never came to fruition, but if they play their cards right with Love, Death, & Robots maybe we can see a guest appearance one of these days. At the very least, we should get a short within the anthology. Fingers crossed.
Miller certainly gained a lot of momentum after the box office return of his first feature film (Deadpool), and while he transformed that into scoring the director’s chair on the next Terminator reboot, Love, Death, & Robots remained a passion project. As he states in the press release:
“‘Love, Death & Robots’ is my dream project; it combines my love of animation and amazing stories. Midnight movies, comics, books, and magazines of fantastic fiction have inspired me for decades, but they were relegated to the fringe culture of geeks and nerds of which I was a part. I’m so fucking excited that the creative landscape has finally changed enough for adult-themed animation to become part of a larger cultural conversation.”
That’s the thing, right. The loonies have taken over the asylum. What was once relegated to the back allies and basements of geek culture has come to the forefront of popular culture. Netflix may want to market this as “NSFM (Not Suitable For Mainstream) Shorts,” but we’re desperate for the upheaval of the traditional. Those comic books that would have gotten you a swirly 30 years ago will grant you a gauntlet of high-fives today.
Last year, we named Netflix our Filmmaker of the Year. A cheeky, but on-point way to acknowledge the astonishing strides the streaming network has made to become a home for some of our most talented creatives. If artists like Fincher and Miller continue to find a home there when studios refuse to take meetings on kooky concepts like The Goon, then Netflix’s influence will only reach further in 2019.