Netflix has a penchant for taking risks with its original content, and that doesn’t always pay off, but when every component of its latest announcement sounds like a total winner. Netflix is tapping into their well-trodden, experimental, and well-received adult animation sector while simultaneously applying another chancy twist to the proceedings. The streaming service just greenlit a new and likely harrowing series that will make use of a fresh form of hybrid animation technolog, with the promise of increasing overall narrative resonance via performance-driven computer-generated storytelling.
According to Deadline, Alex Kershaw‘s nonfiction book The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau will be made into a four-part drama. The story tracks the heroism of US Army officer Felix Sparks and his troops of the 45th Infantry “Thunderbird” Division. The Liberator takes a deep dive into re-envisioning the disturbing, dramatic, and devastating realities on the World War II battlefield, from the invasion of Italy to the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Jeb Stuart, best-known as the screenwriter of thrillers such as Die Hard and The Fugitive, is slated to adapt the book for the small screen. Meanwhile, Kershaw himself will serve as the series’ co-producer.
Most notably, Netflix’s take on The Liberator will be the premiere project produced in Trioscope Enhanced Hybrid Animation. This burgeoning tech pioneered by visual effects artist Grzegorz Jonkajtys (The Revenant) and School of Humans’ L.C. Crowley blends live-action performance and “state-of-the-art” CG elements into a moody, gritty visual feast. This, in turn, heightens the overall scope of drama and better conveys the richness of human emotions within the medium of animation. Sample stills from Netflix (such as those seen above and below) showcase the tentative style that the series is leaning towards.
The Netflix series will be based on the meticulously researched and, at times, deeply personal account of one of the bloodiest and most tormenting strings of military campaigns during World War II. Kershaw’s book takes its primary point of reference from Sparks’ practically incredulous journey moving up the ranks from Lieutenant to Colonel out of sheer necessity in battle.
We get to know about the poverty-stricken young man, who had grown up during the Great Depression, at the start of his enlistment and the man who would put himself in harm’s way for his troops. Kershaw’s attention to detail allows us to be discomfitingly and heartbreakingly engrossed in the retellings of the grueling 500 days of battle that Sparks and the rest of the Thunderbirds endured. The Liberator is mostly recounted from Sparks’ perspective, including the use of personal interviews with him, although the inclusion of viewpoints from multiple people and official reports further adds textural complexity to the story.
Part of the narrative’s appeal is its lack of glamorization of past events and people, which makes it particularly chilling once it delves into the psyche of the broken soldier when they face eventuating casualties and body counts. Through roughly two years in battle, including brutal skirmishes across Italy, Southern France, and Germany culminating in the horrific discoveries at Dachau, the book manages to be a sobering, intelligent recount of the traumas borne from war, too.
Overall, in what feels like a case of ideal media symbiosis, the appeal of both an adaptation of The Liberator and Trioscope definitely go hand-in-hand for this singular Netflix venture. The story and medium would create an optimally cohesive series that actually packs the right kind of punch. We’re not short on war dramas in general. In fact, this wouldn’t even be the first time specific horrors like Dachau have been depicted in on the small screen (with some liberties taken) thanks to Band of Brothers. However, the sensory intensity of such a high-pressure war scenario provides a prime blueprint with which to test out a new animation program aimed at replicating a sense of realism.
The Liberator certainly demands such a level of fidelity and authenticity; both due to the tradition of adapting real events in general, and the consideration of how a take on Kershaw’s impeccable documentarian work would undoubtedly be bolstered by the promise of innovative audience immersion. Trioscope is being put to great use here and it’s an excellent idea for Netflix to bring this confronting, essential show to the masses.