Sci-Fi Needs More Dark, Serious Animation
David S. F. Wilson is the director of “Sonnie’s Edge,” one of the most popular episodes of the Netflix series Love, Death + Robots. Wilson believes that computer animation holds a great deal of untapped potential when it comes to serious science fiction.
“Directing animation is like directing in slow motion,” Wilson says in Episode 514 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “You wield an immense amount of control in animation, because it takes so long, and you can be hyper-specific about what you want.”
Love, Death + Robots takes short stories by top authors such as Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, and Neal Asher and adapts them into dark, atmospheric short films. Wilson would love to see more feature-length movies that take a page from the show. “When Volume 3 launched, they screened some of the new shorts—and some of the old ones—in a movie theater,” he says. “It made me go, ‘Why aren’t there animated movies like this?’ I’m making it my mission over the next five years to get something like that up on a screen somewhere. It deserves it.”
Feature animation tends to focus on family-friendly fare rather than dark, serious science fiction. One reason for that may be lingering memories of the 2001 film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which was a commercial and critical flop. “Final Fantasy came out years ago, and it didn’t do anyone any favors as a test case for what that would look like,” Wilson says. “But I think we’re getting closer to the point where I’m hoping we can take a shot at that.”
He points to Doom as a franchise that is begging to be made into an animated feature. “I didn’t like the previous installments of that franchise,” he says. “The next version should not be live action. It should be an animated movie. It should be R-rated and aggressive, and like nothing you’ve ever seen in that space before.”
Listen to the complete interview with David S. F. Wilson in Episode 514 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
David S. F. Wilson on the Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer:
We were given a lot of freedom. They said, “It’s essentially the Sith are returning, and we want some story that showcases the sacking of Coruscant.” And I was like, “OK. Can I write anything I want?” And they’re like, “Yes, but you’ve got to feature a bounty hunter, and there’s got to be some Sith, etc.” “OK no problem.” And I went away and wrote that trailer, and that was the first one we did. There’s a character in that called Darth Malgus, who didn’t exist until I wrote him in that script and we put him in that trailer, and now there are books and statues of him. I still pinch myself that there’s a corner of the Star Wars universe somewhere that didn’t exist until I put it down on the page.
David S. F. Wilson on “Sonnie’s Edge”:
I put this presentation together for what I wanted to do with the “Sonnie’s Edge” short, and then we had a Skype session with [“Sonnie’s Edge” writer] Peter F. Hamilton. I shared my screen and walked him through the presentation of what I was going to do. I couldn’t see Peter at the time I was walking him through it, and when I finished and I closed the presentation, there was this gentleman staring back at me with this ear-to-ear grin. He was so excited. That made my year. He actually watched it in a theater in London—at the premiere, with Alastair Reynolds—and he sent me the most amazing email. He said, “I haven’t experienced a feeling like that since I was a kid in the theater watching Star Wars, and the Star Destroyer rumbled overhead.”
David S. F. Wilson on Delta-v:
Delta-v is a very meaningful project to Daniel Suarez, as it is to me. It’s essentially the story of how we become a spacefaring species, which I think is an important aspect of who we are and what we’re going to become one day … Science fiction has inspired some of the largest technological leaps that our species has ever undertaken, and I believe that as storytellers we shouldn’t be riding in the wake of the Bezoses and Musks who are building rockets, we should be inspiring them on what we want to do. That’s what the series is about. I could go on for hours about Delta-v and how we’re not where we need to be with space exploration. If I could click my fingers, that would be one of the projects that I would love to see happen.
David S. F. Wilson on The Division trailer:
Ubisoft called and they were like, “Your trailer is depressing. You need to change it.” Specifically there was a suicide in it, and the head of Ubisoft was like, “It’s making me uncomfortable.” I’m like, “Do you understand the irony in what you’re saying? The whole trailer is about how we choose to turn away from things that are uncomfortable or difficult because we don’t want to have to deal with it. That emotional experience that you’re having is the point of the trailer.” In their defense, they listened to me soapbox for about five minutes, and then they were like, “You seem like a rather passionate fellow. We’ll let you carry on.”