THIS isn’t the show…the show will come when we take these seeds and re-plant them.
When Liquid Television first hit, MTV viewers didn’t even know what to make of it. The network was just coming out of a decade of eighties metal power ballads and so the network began it’s metamorphisis when the Nirvana meteor hit. The pop culture America as we knew it was over and there was nothing we could do about it. Howard Stern had taken over the airwaves, Nirvana went multi-platinum, and we got a block of adult animation that was very much a contrast to the eighties kids Saturday morning cartoons with Aeon Flux, Frog Baseball, and Bill Plympton interstitials that helped lay the groundwork for other networks to do the same and constantly fail at. Really only Adult Swim captured the essence of what made Liquid Television special and continues to do so today almost unchallenged.
Until now. Thirty years from now, we’ll look back on Love Death + Robots as important as Liquid Television. Is it because of the block of shorts themselves? No. It’s because from these block of shorts it’s very evident that producers in the adult animation spectrum are a bit tired of the status quo, and as such, are making themselves known. Is it perfect? No. From a storytelling perspective, no, and quite frankly, it’s mostly the 2D animation featured that really gets this part right, probably led off by “Good Hunting”, a clear indication that Chinese-produced animation could very well hit American shores like a tidal wave much in the same way Japanese animation did it back in the late nineties. As long as the producers are smart enough to dub for English audiences, the Ken Liu-written short will make you feel the way Aeon Flux did. It’s THAT important.
That’s not to say there aren’t other good examples here. For the most part, tell animation studios that typically produce video games that they can make whatever they want, and more often than not you’re getting sci-fi ilk, not unlike the stuff you may have seen in other CG-animated movies inspired by video games or not successful live-action films. Ideas like “Secret Wars”, “Lucky 13”, “Sonnie’s Edge”, “Suits”, and a couple of others all have the feel of watching elongated cutscenes for AAA video game franchises which makes sense given the DNA of their studios and as such a lot of episodes kinda run together like a discombobulated and uninspired rut, however we do get some gems. For my money, “Ice Age” starring Topher Grace, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and directed by Tim Miller could very well be a pitch for a full-length feature film and I’d definitely go see it. Yes, it’s a bit derivative of a popular short from The Simpsons called “The Genesis Tub”, but I rather enjoyed it, as the producers certainly expanded on what the FOX stalwart has done and made it more contemporary for a modern age, hell, throw dinosaurs into anything and I’m probably gonna check it out. “Zima Blue” and “Shape-Shifters” I would very much enjoy seeing more of, and “Three Robots” has all the ingredients to be a Netflix adult animated comedy and is probably the only animated short that was able to bring me characters that had heart but in a 3D world, almost like if Pixar got into the adult animation game. “When The Yogurt Took Over” is the shortest of the collection, but quite possibly the best short that was not expecting sequels nor was it going there. The scale of the short is truly indicative of the Marvel pedigree that Janis Robertson has and it’s on display here, probably the most theater-ready of the bunch.
With being an anthology series, I was actually taken aback by complacent the execution really became. Clearly, some of the producers got the memo of what we’re doing here and took that ball and scored touchdowns, “Good Hunting and “Three Robots”, most likely the cream of the crop here. In fairness, that’s what these type of series are for. To find the diamonds that can get us truly great stuff. Liquid Television got us Beavis and Butthead and a few other really good ideas, I think Love Death + Robots definitey have some sure-fire players that could have just as lofty of runs. It might take thirty years before we see the fruits come to pass worthy of say Mike Judge getting all sorts of animation accolades that he’s getting now, but I’m willing to take that ride.