April 9, 2019
Love Death + Robots creator Tim Miller discusses the process of making an animated anthology for adults and pushing creative limits.
The anthology series is a love letter to animation and artistic flair.
April 2, 2019
Love, Death & Robots transcends genres. It doesn’t want to be categorized, or appeal to niche markets. Instead, the broad appeal of Netflix’s animated anthology series ensures that there’s something for everyone. (Read our Love, Death & Robots review.)
For Tim Miller, creator and executive producer on Love, Death & Robots, this approach was a key aspect of the series’ development. It’s a vow that the show retains, and sits perfectly with the punchy, unconnected stories that Love, Death & Robots has brought to a wider audience.
“It really was designed to be something for everyone,” Miller told IGN, “which means a pretty broad spectrum of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and fantastic fiction. I think I chose a few more sci-fi ones because that’s where I lean a little more heavily, but we tried very hard to balance it.”
That balance is what makes Love, Death & Robots a unique Netflix property. Taking inspiration from other anthologies, such as the iconic comic book series Heavy Metal, the show is a celebration of various short stories by acclaimed authors like Alastair Reynolds, Joe Lansdale, and John Scalzi.
Led by Miller’s own animation studio Blur, the production involved 13 studios and animators from nine countries. Tasked with bringing Miller’s handpicked stories – 16 pre-existing ones, and two original tales that were written for the series – to life, each studio’s drive and love for their craft is evident in the sheer diversity of animation styles and art forms on display.
How did you get involved in Love, Death + Robots?
Tim: This show has been my dream project for as long as I can remember, but the real story starts when I met David [Fincher] in 2005. I showed him a long list of projects I wanted to do, one of which was an adult animated anthology. He loved it. We originally developed it as a feature film, and we planned to animate the entire thing at Blur… but it never gained traction. But, when DEADPOOL came out, it became clear that there’s an audience for this kind of material. We seized the moment and decided to bring the adult anthology back as a series. Netflix was in. And now it’s so fucking cool to see how much people love this show and this kind of material, because it’s the stuff I grew up on.
Jed: Blur has been making game trailers and cinematics for a long time, always innovating new styles as far as our clients would let us. LOVE, DEATH AND ROBOTS presented us with an incredible opportunity to make stories without restraint, and to fold in amazing partners from around the world we had always admired.
Tim: Jed heavily campaigned to be on this project for years. Which was great because we knew he’d be enthusiastic and lead the charge at Blur.
Jed: The other studios were also enthusiastic to be a part of this anthology because, like Blur, they want to keep evolving and growing. They were all great, CG studios like Digic, Axis, Unit, and Platige. And because they bring different skills and perspectives, the show has something for everyone.
What was it like working with David Fincher, Jennifer Miller, and Josh Donen?
Tim: We have a history with all of them, so it was very easy and comfortable. David first came to Blur because he wanted to develop a game. Our studio is run by artists and he was immediately drawn to that aspect. Josh is David’s longtime collaborator and producer. We’ve known each other for over a decade and have always gotten along and enjoyed working together. Jennifer is the COO of Blur and runs the company, not to mention she’s my wife. Together, all of us had worked on ZODIAC, GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and many other projects. History builds trust, so when David and Josh left for MINDHUNTER, they knew that LOVE, DEATH AND ROBOTS was in good hands.
With Love, Death + Robots now streaming on Netflix, a few days ago at SXSW I got to sit down with Tim Miller to talk about the NSFW anthology of animated stories he made with David Fincher. If you haven’t seen the trailers, the very cool series features 18 shorts that run between 5-15 minutes in length, are aimed at adults, were done by different teams of filmmakers from around the world, and showcase a variety of styles from traditional 2D to photo-real CGI. In addition, all of the stories are wildly different. You’ve got cyborg bounty hunters, alien spiders, sentient dairy products, werewolf soldiers, robots gone wild, and blood-thirsty demons from hell — to just name a few.
I caught six of the shorts before doing the interview and absolutely loved what I saw. If you’re into cool stories and incredible animation, you absolutely want to check the series out. Love, Death + Robots is now streaming on Netflix.
During the interview, Tim Miller talked about how the series was made, how they’ve been working on it since before Deadpool was released in theaters, how he became friends with David Fincher and why they did this project, and what it was like collaborating with Netflix. Plus, if he has a suggested order for people to watch the series, if he’s ready to tell more stories in some of these worlds, the possibility of a second season, how the budgets were dictated by length and animation style, and so much more.
David Fincher, Jennifer Miller & Tim Miller, Executive Producers
SXSW Film Festival. Austin, TX
(Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images, Zimbio)
Tim Miller and David Fincher aim to scramble and rearrange the face of TV animation with their ambitious Netflix series Love, Death & Robots, which features short, adult tales told in a variety of styles. At SXSW this week, they debuted six of the 18 shorts that went live on Netflix today. These risque shorts ran the gamut of comedy, thriller, crime, sci-fi horror and everything in-between.
This isn’t the first time Fincher has teamed up with Tim Miller. Before Miller achieved fame as director of Deadpool, he owned the Blur animation and VFX studio, and worked as Fincher’s guy for opening title sequences. The two even tried to get an animated adaptation of Eric Powell‘s The Goon off the ground 10 years ago.
In this chat with Tim Miller and his producer and wife Jennifer Miller, we talk about the process of bringing Love, Death & Robots to life, how that could potentially help make their Goon adaptation a reality, as well, and what it was like juggling dozens of directors and production outfits.
I don’t think you and I talked around the time, but I did talk with both David Fincher and Eric Powell when you all were trying to get The Goon off the ground about ten years ago…
Tim: We have not given up. It will happen.
Watching those episodes from Love, Death & Robots last night I couldn’t help but hope that it does well enough for Netflix that maybe they’ll go ahead and finally make Goon a reality. I’d love for this to pave the way to The Goon actually happening.
Tim: I think it will only help, but we haven’t given up on The Goon. Never have, never will. And I think you’ll be happy. Soon. I’m excited about it and I do think all of this helps. It can take a while. I don’t think I’m talking out of school, but the last hiccup was Eric had some older business that needed to be cleared out for lawyers to be happy and stuff. I feel it keenly, like if I was a fan and I would go, “These f***ers took my money and what did they do with it?” We did exactly what we said. We have a whole reel. We spent that money and more of our own besides. We have a full reel for the movie. It’s going to be great. It’s just any movie is a push up hill. For (Love, Death & Robots) David and I tried for 10 years.
Since you tried to get The Goon off the ground you’ve made one of the most successful superhero movies of all time…
Tim: Which also took five years to do as well, but we never gave up. David never gave up. On this show, literally the weekend Deadpool came out, David called and said, “Okay, you’re going to get a little juice off of this and we’re going to use that to combine it with my power and we’re going to push this forward.” The thing that was nice about Deadpool, which David saw, was it was something that everybody said won’t work and then they see it not only works but it works well and there’s a hunger for this kind of material out there. That was the same door we were pushing against with this R-rated animated anthology. So you can see the corollaries, and I think the same thing will be for The Goon. Why not?
That source material is so fun It’s a tragedy that it hasn’t happened yet, but I love that you guys are still pushing forward on it.
Tim: David never gives up and I don’t either. It’s not like I can’t give up because I have so much time invested. I just never stopped liking it. I didn’t get bored with it. Sometimes you just can’t get it done. You hit a wall and you have to find another way around.
Jennifer: I think it’s one of the things that makes you successful. You will walk through a wall to get to that project. I’ve seen you do it. You hang on for years and years. That tenacity is great. You need it, in this business especially.
You’re producing all these different shorts and you also directed one of your own. Did you find that there was much a difference when you were directing versus when you’re producing the other projects? Did you find yourself in any kind of different mindset?
Tim: I don’t think directors make the best producers because it’s hard for you not to go, “Well, how would I do this?” or “I would never do that.” But I do think from running a studio for years, Blur is almost 25. We have a lot of directors doing projects and I’m used to helping them or, I hate this word, but mentoring some of them or just chiming in and with an opinion when I’m asked. I’ve never felt like I had to control everything. I’m not that type of guy. And David is definitely not. I mean, we did the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opening and David was like, “Tell me I’m the best f***ing client you’ve ever had.” I mean it was his vision for what it was, but as far as like saying “No, do this,” or “Cut out five frames early,” he never said any of that.
In fact, the last review was him saying, “I want to stop by and see it.” And I said, “Oh, why?” He’s like “’cause it’s cool. I just want to come by and see it and I’m in the neighborhood.” That’s the way he was for the whole project. And I try and be that way. On the other hand, Netflix expects us, Blur, as the hub of this whole enterprise to make something great. If we don’t deliver, first David will go, “Dude, what the f***? This sucks.” And then secondly, Netflix will go, “Uhhh…” So we feel a sense of responsibility to make sure it hits a certain level of quality, but I think you can do that without being heavy-handed. Maybe you should ask the other directors. (laughs) We only made two or three people cry during the production.
Jennifer: One of your superpowers is finding excellent talent. You would scour through the Internet and find all these great artists to come work at Blur and now you’re scouring the Internet to find these fantastic new directors. You gave them a lot of latitude and you set them up for success with fantastic stories and it worked. I think that very excellent hiring of talent really just set you up to be able to let go as a director and let them do their job.
Tim: Timing-wise, it worked pretty well for us. When Netflix said go we had a chunk of time before I had to leave and do The Terminator. We got through the entire story selection process. We got through the entire selection of the directors and studios that were doing the work. We got through the initial presentations of here’s what we’d like it to look like and here are our storyboards, and, in some cases, even animatics before I had to say, “See you later!” Terminator was a seven days a week, 24 hours a day enterprise. Jennifer and the production team are involved in all of that as well, so I don’t have to worry about that. Blur can do that without any input from me. It was a really great teamwork approach to the whole thing.
David Fincher & Tim Miller, Executive Producers
SXSW Film Festival. Austin, TX
(Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images, Zimbio)
Steven Spielberg may or may not be marshaling forces against Netflix. The Academy may or may not have awarded Green Book Best Picture as a slight to the streamer’s unanimously praised Roma. A handful of power players in Hollywood still dismiss direct-to-consumer platforms as secondary hubs of entertainment. But they’ll be on the wrong side of history.
Some of cinema’s greatest filmmakers are flocking to the world of streaming, tempted by its deep pockets and creative freedom (hello, Martin Scorsese). Roma didn’t need to win Best Picture for Netflix to make a powerful point about its place in the industry—with an increasingly ambitious library of original shows and films, the service has already become arguably the No. 1 destination for entertainment. Adding directors David Fincher and Tim Miller’s new animated anthology series Love, Death and Robots to the mix just further underlines that fact.
The creative duo, who boast three Academy Award nominations between them, originally viewed the series—a collection of animated short stories that spans various genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy—as a film. But up against Hollywood’s risk-averse studios, they could never get a firm green light. Enter Netflix, which has emerged as a home for the kind of daring, left-field storytelling we rarely see in mainstream cinema.
“We got a ‘yes’ [from film studios] for a while here, a ‘yes’ for a while there, and then everybody starts on the whole ‘Yeah, but anthology, yeah, but anthology,’ and, you know, ‘Is it going to be confusing?’ And it’s like, why would a buffet be confusing?” Fincher told Observer at SXSW. “Why would it be confusing that you can have fruit or pancakes? Really, streaming services are kind of the perfect place to do something like this, because, you know, these [shorts] are distractions. But they’re really detailed in their execution, and a lot of love and care went into it.”
Netflix offered Fincher and Miller the opportunity—and a ton of freedom—to breathe life into their vision, so it’s easy to see why they ultimately landed there. The partnership helped Love, Death and Robots truly take shape.
David Fincher. SXSW Film Festival. Austin, TX
(Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images, Zimbio)