Love, Death + Robots: "Night of the Mini Dead"
Blur approached BUCK with this seed of an idea for the third season of Netflix’s “Love, Death + Robots” — “a zombie apocalypse in tilt shift” — and asked if we could make it funny. We said hold our tiny beer.
Night of the Mini Dead
It wasn’t enough for us that the world just ended because of zombies, we wanted it to be explicit that the whole thing was our fault — the result of human stupidity and hubris. The moral of the story is, yeah, we had it all and we f#*ked it up. And not just for ourselves. We’re taking the cute penguins with us too. In fact, we’re taking everything.
Yes, it’s pretty dark. But if there weren’t truth in it, it wouldn’t work.
Tilt Shifted Reality vs Stylized Miniature
Early on, there were talks of a stylized look, or even building practical miniature sets, but it was important for us that this felt like you were watching a real world (albeit bite-sized) apocalypse happen right before your eyes. With this idea in mind we arrived at the decision to use a mix of cg and live action photography treated with a tilt shift effect.
We thought the tiny action would be funnier if it had the same quality as a summer blockbuster. And so we were lucky to have our friends at Rodeo FX come onboard to help wipe out the human race.
Sound and Dialogue
What does a mini apocalypse sound like?
The initial idea was a purely visual story set to music. But we thought, "wouldn't it be hilarious if you could hear what the tiny, ill-fated humans were saying?" That layer of teeny-bravado led to such eloquent lines as "Zombies??? Not in our country!" and "Shoot 'em in the dick."
Homage to Genre
This refreshing new perspective on the time-honored and beloved zombie genre allowed us to expand into some of our other favorites. “Night of the Mini Dead'' is not just a tiny homage to the zombie films you know and love, but also genres like kung fu, softcore porn, and 80’s action flicks.
But how did it all start? Was it an ancient curse? A virus? Mother Nature scorned? A lot of ideas were thrown about but the maxim that guided us for the entire job ended up winning out: what was the easiest read — KEEP IT SIMPLE.
We knew that the film was going to end with a bang. So why not start with one too?
What would be sacrilegious enough to raise the dead? Eureka. The tiniest cemetery lovemaking scene ever made. Because drunken passion and flippant desecration summons corpses from their graves, naturally.
Mad Max but Dumb
In the ‘third act’, post-shit meeting fan, we had a vision of an over-the-top, Mad Max-style, vehicle caravan of super-charged, zombie sweepers racing through a city on fire. But we wanted to filter that image through a lens of dumbass-ery.
So we marbled the caravan with ridiculousness: a Zero Fux-graffitied truck, a VW Beetle racer and a callback to the ‘Suburban Soccer Mom’ minivan that has since been tricked out into an undead murdering machine.
Directing the Details
The great joy of this job was infusing these sequences with a crazy amount of details — layers of jokes and references that make the short extremely rewatchable. To keep each shot legible we balanced the millions of details with broad gestural action. Here’s a sample of some of the thinking that went into this mini-masterpiece.
As the story progressed, we needed a way to up the ante and escalate the zombie threat. We thought it would be funny if they turned big, but, you know, still mini. Also they should shoot fire.
Because we wanted to keep things pretty dumb, we didn’t want a big complex monster. We just wanted it to look like a scaled-up, drunken, zombie bro, dripping with toxic, nuclear masculinity. Instead of shooting fire or something menacing like that, they should just barf it — and that’s how the “Toxic Death Barf” was born.
Our Existence Doesn't Matter
The finale was our ode to Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot” — he said it best:
“There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.”
We came into existence with a bang. We leave it with the one joke that always lands.
Check out the final carnage on Netflix. Love, Death, & Robots Volume 3, Episode 4 and smash that like button.
Andrew Chan Gladstone
Head of 3D Animation
Chief Creative Officers
Head of Content Development
Global Head of 3D
Head of 3D Los Angeles
Global Head of Post Production
Fanny Hagdahl Sorebo
Sung Hyun Kim
Color Key Artists
2D Previs Artists
Asset Modeling and Look Development
Ernesto Ruiz Velasco
Juan Carlos Barraza Mendoza
Carlos Moran Villanueva
Visual Effects - RODEO FX
Executive Visual Effects Producer
Lead Compositing Artist
Executive Visual Effects Supervisor
VP Development & Technology
Head of Global VFX Operations
VFX Production Manager
VFX Production Assistant
Camera Matchmove Artist
Motion Capture Technical Specialists