Warning! This article contains spoilers from David Fincher’s episode of Love, Death and Robots Volume 3, titled “Bad Traveling.” All 9 episodes are currently available to watch on Netflix.
After nearly 40 years in the entertainment business, 3-time Oscar-nominee, David Fincher, has seemingly done it all. From his early years directing music videos for Madonna and Aerosmith, crafting memorable films like Seven and The Social Network, and working on acclaimed TV shows such as House of Cards and Mindhunter, Fincher’s resume appears to be complete. But what about animation?
With the launch of Volume 3 of Netflix’s mind-bending Love, Death and Robots anthology series, Fincher can finally check animation off his bucket list with his episode, titled “Bad Traveling.” In this seafaring horror story, a group of Jable shark hunters on a far-away planet are attacked by a giant crustacean. With the sailors’ lives in jeopardy, chaos and mutiny ensue.
Although Fincher has decades of experience working behind the camera on live-action projects, we wanted to know if animation brought any new challenges to the seasoned director.
“Ultimately, directing comes down to understanding context and sculpting time, light, and behavior with that innate understanding,” Fincher told IGN. “In some cases, like in the case of motion capture, there are people in onesies with ping pong balls hanging off them, and you’re going, ‘Okay, now remember the ship is rocking and all…’ You’re there to add a little imagination sauce to all the other shit that they’re trying to keep in their heads. I mean, it does tend to look a little like Saturday Night Live. It’s a ridiculous thing to be asking somebody to do a one -act play, dressed in pajamas. So that aspect of it, it’s the same thing. You’re playing dress up, right? And you’re trying to say, ‘Look, from the audience’s standpoint, this needs to happen a little faster here, a little… This can go a little slower. It’s all the same shit.”
“Bad Traveling” features popular video game voice actor Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Bioshock: Infinite) in the leading role, as one of the weary seamen who must confront the terrifying crustacean. Fincher’s episode is an adaptation of Neal Asher’s short story of the same name. And while Asher’s story was the primary influence for what we see on screen, Fincher was also inspired by an iconic sci-fi monster movie from the late 1970s.
“I love Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean in Alien,” Fincher said. “And I love the idea of these totally disparate-looking, craggy, real sweaty dudes that want to renegotiate the bonus situation before we talk about when we can get the steam back online. And I like that. And I like the idea of those kinds of faces: weathered, cynical, and suspicious. And here’s the guy who’s inherited this thing that’s supposed to run now because he’s next in line. And they go, ‘Yeah, not so much. Well, none of us want to go down there. That’s on you, motherfucker.’ And they send him off down into the hole. I was kind of going, ‘What are the first three pages? All right. What do I need to tell that story?’ And I thought, I don’t want it to feel like Around the World in 80 Days. I wanted it to feel like Alien.”
Since the 1992 release of Alien 3 (Fincher’s feature film debut), the veteran director hasn’t produced a lot of science-fiction content, until his recent collaboration with fellow Love, Death, and Robots executive producer, Tim Miller (Deadpool). Fincher told us that while Miller helped him with some of the motion captures and creature designs, Fincher still had some input on what the giant crab should look like.
“It was a lot like a scorpion, lobster thing. And then I started bringing it back, and I kept coming back to this idea of, I want this thing to be like a walking coral reef,” Fincher informed IGN. “It’s literally the size of two Range Rovers side by side. And if it decides it wants to snip you in half, it certainly has the ability to do that. We had different kinds of walks when we were doing the mix, and it was like, there’s the Clydesdale, and then there’s the side shuffling, elephant walk that it does. I did like the scorpion tail, but we had to make it make sense so that it didn’t feel… It initially looked like a tapeworm , which is a little disconcerting.”
With three Academy Award nominations for best director, and a slew of other prestigious honors over the years, what more can David Fincher learn from working on a 21-minute animated episode?
“The notion is to get better. The notion is to be a more complete version of a storyteller,” Fincher explained. “I think initially I was… If I had any reservations, it was like, ‘Oh God, if I have 300 shots, can I do it? Can I do something that… Can I tell…’ I mean, the script was… I’m going to say it was 16 pages or 17 pages. And there were things that it’s like, ‘The crew battles the giant crustacean until it disappears into the hole.’ It’s a little bit like Lawrence takes Aqaba. And you go, ‘Okay, well that’s three weeks of shooting.’ So there were things that were deceptive about it. But I’m pretty much used to that. And I certainly am used to my process. I don’t think there were a lot of people in the mo-cap who were used to doing 14 takes of a master. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s like, I want to make sure that we get the tape where everyone crosses over and is doing their best thing for the people on either side of them.”
Love, Death, and Robots – Season 3 Images
For more on the world of streaming, be sure to check out the latest trailer for Disney’s Ms. Marvel, Marvel is working on a new Daredevil series, and our review of Night Sky Season 1.
David Griffin is the Senior Editor, Features and Content Partnerships for IGN. say hi ten twitter.