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Axis Delivers Unique, Painterly Horror in ‘Love, Death + Robots’ ‘The Tall Grass’

Under veteran DreamWorks Animation alum Simon Otto’s direction, the short film adaptation of Joe. R. Lansdale Lovecraftian story treats every frame as a painting in a living, breathing illustration.  

With this weekend’s Creative Arts Emmy win for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program (for Robert Valley’s short film Ice), Netflix’s animated adult sci-fi / horror / fantasy anthology series, Love, Death + Robots (LDR) Vol 2 continues to win awards, critical accolades, and fans.

Created by Tim Miller and David Fincher, the series showcases the work of multiple animation studios. With each story independent to the next, every episode portrays a unique narrative, differing aesthetic themes, and a broad range of creative styles.

Returning for Season 2 is Axis Studios, who created the short The Tall Grass, under the vision of director and VES Award-winning How To Train Your Dragon franchise alum, Simon Otto. The Tall Grass sets itself apart visually from other series entries by treating every frame as a painting; adapted from Joe R. Lansdale’ tense Lovecraftian horror story of the same name, the short uses visually stunning CG to create a living, breathing illustration. 

Go behind-the-scenes to see more about the short’s production; a great selection of concept art and film stills can be found below:

Axis challenged its creative team to produce something audiences have never seen before, utilizing their skills to push the boundaries of animated storytelling outside usual comfort zones. Animation rarely delves into the horror space, and Love, Death + Robots provided Axis a chance to showcase the medium’s extraordinary versatility.  The studio created a unique look that complemented the story and emphasized its themes, while at the same time, complimenting the other equally exciting projects in the same space.

According to Otto, “We really wanted our short to feel like a visual development painting and we had to work out how to do that in animation.  The proof of concept, the first CG version of a shot blew everyone away.  The team raised the bar and it set the tone for the rest of the film.”

Executive producer Caleb Bouchard adds, “We had a great collaboration with Blur on the Love, Death + Robots Vol 1 episode ‘Helping Hand.’  Blur trusted us to develop a look for The Tall Grass and really early on we were able to prove that visually we had something very interesting that sets it apart from a lot of the things we were doing but tonally in terms of storytelling fit into the vein of the LDR series.”

Founded in Glasgow in 2000, Axis Studios boasts an international team of directors, designers, artists, animators, writers and producers, working across its studios. As well as being the largest animation studio in Scotland, it also has one of the largest CGI teams in the UK.

The Tall Grass is directed by Otto and executive produced by Bouchard. Christian Illingworth produces; Georg-Sebastian Dressler serves as the CG supervisor, while Bram Sels serves as art director. Love, Death + Robots is now streaming on Netflix.

Source: Axis Studios

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.