Explicit in violence, nudity, and language, Netflix’s Love, Death, & Robots advances animation—and is unapologetic in doing so. This anthology features eighteen short stories that are divine and dangerous. Created by Tim Miller (co-founder of Blur Studio) and produced by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network), Love, Death, & Robots showcases the work of top visual effects studios around the world. The various 2D and 3D graphic styles are impeccable, but the true marvel is the innovation of emotion and plot, resulting when funds and freedom remove all limits from these limitless visual storytellers.
First is the motion capture work, which stands among entertainment’s best. Actor Samira Wiley, known for Orange is the New Black and Handmaid’s Tale, zips up a mocap suit, becoming pilot Lieutenant Colby for Lucky 13. Also providing mocap work for this short is Nestor Serrano (The Last Ship, Dexter). Another short, Fish Night, directed by Damian Nenow from Platige Image, features superbly designed 3D marine life encircling the motion captures of voice acting legends Kirk Thornton and Yuri Lowenthal. However, the film that keeps me questioning whether or not it is live-action is The Secret War, directed by István Zorkóczy with digital work from Hungary’s Digic Pictures.
Love, Death, & Robots also succeeds in pairing motion capture and traditional animation with topnotch voice acting. Nolan North, whom most gamers know for voicing Uncharted’s Nathan Drake, stars first as a killer in The Witness, and second as a self-aware southerner in The Dump. Also in The Witness is Emily O’Brien, who has provided voice over work for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, God of War, and the upcoming Death Stranding. Additionally, Josh Brener (DuckTales), Gary Anthony Williams (Star Wars Resistance), and Chris Parnell (Archer) voice the hilarious Three Robots cast. But it is Zima’s rumbling voice in Zima Blue that most people recognize. Kevin Michael Richardson, whose extensive IMDB credits cramps your finger from scrolling down it all, has been involved in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Lilo and Stitch, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Halo 2.
Though Philip Gelatt (Europa Report, They Remain) serves as the writer for thirteen episodes in the series, many of the stories derive from other well-known authors. Claudine Griggs, recipient of The Year’s Best Military and Adventure Science Fiction 2015 Award, offers her stranded-in-space short story Helping Hand to Axis Animation, the studio behind video games Gears 5 and Destiny 2: Rebirth. Two episodes after Helping Hand is Lucky 13, based on a short story from Hugo Award nominee Marko Kloos. His short is followed by Zima Blue, written by hard science fiction and space opera writer Alastair Reynolds.
In an interview with Collider, Love, Death, & Robots creator Tim Miller hints at an even bigger list of shorts than the eighteen developed for season one. Netflix approved season two, presenting us the possibility to see more from Miller’s original collection. Furthermore, I look forward to Jennifer Yuh Nelson entering the supervising director role for these future films. Her elevation is much deserved, following her successes directing Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3. With Miller and Nelson’s experience, VFX studios’ limitless talent, and viewer anticipation leading into season two, Love, Death, & Robots is developing into a definitive turning point in animation history.