There are animation houses around the world producing stunning work, and one of the exciting things about the enduring sci-fi teaser trend, and the democracy of access it is providing to industry gatekeepers, is seeing these unusual visions proliferate from unexpected places.
The biggest sci-fi piece of 2015, Sundays, comes from a Dutch-based company. Today’s work, Uncanny Valley, comes from Argentina, and continues a tradition of interesting sci-fi from that continent that goes back to Panic Attack, one of the keys works in the development of the current boom.
3DAR is the creative studio behind today’s film, and while not a household name, they are not strangers. In fact the studio was fêted by this very site when their delightful CG film Shave It received a 2014 Short of the Week Award. Uncanny Valley is a big departure from that film’s bright colors and silly-fun storyline, but the same creative DNA runs through the project. Shave It’s directors Jorge Tereso and Fernando Maldonado are credited as Animation Director and VFX Production Designer here respectively, and the writer/director of Uncanny Valley executive produced Shave It.
While it’s difficult to claim that the company’s Argentinian roots are evidenced in the film, Uncanny Valley is one of the most polished and narratively interesting sci-fi shorts that we’ve encountered this year. None of the elements in the film are “original”, but the pieces are well thought out and fit together in surprising ways. The film begins as a faux-documentary laying out an interesting, but heavy-handed, drug abuse metaphor. In the speculative future of this cinematic world, virtual reality addiction is so severe that gamers live in flop houses and resemble crack addicts. This real-world element combines with fantastical (and stunning) animation of the characters within the virtual world, playing a post-apocalyptic first-person shooter with environments and colors that look like a psychedelic imagining of Halo. This juxtaposition would be enough for most creative teams, but 3DAR layer on another twist that complicates both worlds. I won’t spoil, but again, while we’ve seen this twist before, it was obfuscated enough by what came before to totally catch me by surprise, and sets up a very pleasing cliffhanger to the short.
While we have not confirmed 3DAR’s plans for this work, they are not hard to guess. They are represented by the familiar figure of Scott Glassgold, who has developed a reputation for specializing in unknown sci-fi creators who make their names with these types of short online calling cards. Deadline has a story on the pitch being made behind the scenes currently, which includes the possibility of tie-in VR segments as part of a transmedia strategy. Glassgold recently inked a first-look deal with Sony for his new management company Ground Control, so announcement of a feature development deal for Uncanny Valley in the coming weeks is a very real possibility.