Netflix anthology series Love, Death & Robots returns for the third season on May 20 in all the glory, sharpness of the red ribbon. It’s like nothing else in cartoons right now: Each episode tells a different self-contained story, with tone ranging from comedy to dark drama. No pair of shorts is immune to the rough, tough elements: blood and guts, nudity and sex, horror and the hornless horror movie. And unlike other adult animation staples, like Big mouth or family boy, Love, Death & Robots is a genre of spectacle, adapted from various science fiction and fantasy stories.
Co-creator Tim Miller says he culls stories from his vast collection of short fiction anthologies on his Kindle. Miller (director of Deadpool and Terminator: Dark Fate) and co-creator David Fincher (director of Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, and more) launched an anthology series in 2019, selecting a variety of directors and studios to work in the short-term. One of those directors is former DreamWorks director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3), who directed season 2 of LDR short “Pop Squad” and “Kill Team Kill” of season 3. She is also an executive producer on this season. It seems strange that the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 revolves around helping curate a powerful, edgy anthology, but Nelson tells us that the switch to adult animation came naturally to her.
“My natural sensibility is very dark, much more adult animation,” explains Nelson. “I grew up on anime. And for me, animation shouldn’t just be a child’s vehicle. But that’s what it does mostly in the US, especially if you’re looking for big-budget world-building stories. When an opportunity like this presents itself, where I can finally get to work doing what I want, and trying to approach stories in a completely free and comprehensive way – this is what I really want. always wanted to do. ”
In the United States, cartoons tend to be pushed into a family-friendly, all-ages box. There are exceptions, of course, but major theatrical projects are usually the work of PGs. While many animators against this stereotype, Jokes about cartoons mainly for children continue to persevere. But Miller and Nelson wanted to fight that stereotype. They feel like the tides are moving slowly but surely. A big reason? The increasing popularity of anime.
“I think it’s a generational change,” says Nelson. “Because when I started, all the people I was working with had never seen anime before. They just thought it was weird. So they didn’t understand it. They don’t understand. They don’t want to pay for it. They don’t want a show about it. You are preaching to this empty space. Even though things like Akira and Ghost in the shell happening, they’re like, Oh, it’s just weird to me. But now everyone is online. Everyone sees what every other country has. And when you look over there, how can they tell those stories and we can’t? “
Theatrical animation still leans towards family-friendly content. But in the television space, shows are expanding beyond the standard of adult animation like American Father and South Park. In the streaming world, series like Netflix’s Arcane and Castlevania and Amazon Prime’s Undo and Invincible is pushing genre boundaries, telling recurring stories and serving a more mature audience. Not all of them are as hard and sharp as Love, Death & Robots, but they tackle more adult themes and revolve around older characters. That difference alone speaks volumes about how much the medium has evolved since Miller first got the idea for an adult animated movie.
“David Fincher and I had been trying to finish a new adult animated movie for 10 or 12 years,” Miller recalls. “Even though there are quite a few giant Hollywood directors involved and the budget is not big, people are still not willing to take the chance. And now it’s Netflix […] they have a lot of adult animations on it. They’re building and that’s only attracting more adult animation fans. I think the snowball is rolling really and surely down the hill now, in the West. There has been an avalanche in Asia for a while. We just caught up. We are slow. ”
The third season of Love, Death & Robots Now available on Netflix.