David Fincher on his Foray into Animation with Love Death + Robots

Surprisingly this is the first animated film for Fincher. At the start of his film-making career, David Fincher ran his own production company called Propaganda. He gained experience in making dozens of different types of mini-movies, including visually dazzling TV commercials and music videos. This helped him to hone his craft and develop his unique style.

He had always loved animation, but never thought of himself as a animated film director. That all changed when he was approached to be an executive producer on the Netflix anthology series “Love, Death + Robots.” Now, the third season of the show is set to premiere on Friday, and he couldn’t be more excited.

“Love, Death + Robots” was created by director Tim Miller and writer Peter F. Hamilton in the late 2000s. The series is an adaptation of the “Heavy Metal” comics, which are known for their adult content. The first season of “Love, Death + Robots” debuted in 2019 and consisted of 18 episodes that ranged in length from 6 to 17 minutes. Some of the stories that were adapted came from genre favorites like John Scalzi and Joe Lansdale. The second season of the show premiered in 2021 and featured 8 episodes.

Fincher has always been interested in short films, but never made one himself until Season 3. He and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker of “Seven” tackled a tale by British science-fiction author Neal Asher called “Bad Travelling.” It takes place on a merchant ship on the high seas of some strange planet. We are introduced to the crew and as the story unfolds they are tormented by a giant and intelligent crab that manipulates them. One by one the crab claims the lives on the vessel.

“Bad Travelling” was created using motion-capture technology. This computer-aided animation technique records an actor’s facial expressions and gestures, which are then mapped onto an animated character. Fincher worked alongside Miller, co-founded Blur Studio that produced “Bad Travelling” and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, an artist and filmmaker (“Kung Fu Panda 2”), who is also the supervising director for “Love, Death + Robots.”

In a recent interview, Fincher discussed the ups and downs of making the animated thriller, “Bad Travelling” and how he worked his approach to this new medium.

It’s a very difficult thing to write a short story. It’s an art in and of itself to, in the broadest of brushstrokes, bring a reader into an already populated world, make us understand as much as we need to know about the geopolitics or whatever, and then get on with it. It’s what I’ve done making television commercials. That’s a great sandbox to do something with one idea for 30 seconds or two ideas for 60 seconds. I’ve done music videos, which is like a mélange of ideas that should hopefully hang together in some abstract way over 3 to 4 minutes.

The most difficult thing is to acknowledge the integers. When you have 19 minutes, it’s a very different thing than when you have 22 minutes. You have to force yourself with this material to be terse.