Gonzo, trippy, visionary sci-fi is a rich mine for cult movies. A new gem has come to light.
Nova Seed is a great hand-drawn cartoon. You can’t tell from the high quality, but it was animated to feature length (63 minutes) by just one guy in 4 years. (Plus only a few helpers for stuff like music). I’m writing for furry fans, and furries love art that’s not mainstream but is full of guts and talent. That’s how this movie works inside limits to exceed expectations. If your animation gold standard is a blockbuster like Zootopia, gold is common compared to a gem like this.
It’s post-apocalyptic, anthropomorphic sci-fi (that’s a mouthful)… Call it “Zoodystopia”.
The protagonist is Nac, a genetically engineered lion-man. They call him a “neo-animal”. The world is on the edge of destruction and he’s enslaved to fight for the human population. A deadly weapon is being built under the earth and Nac is the one who can stop it. Humans treat neo-animals with fear and suspicion, so he’s due to be terminated at the end. They’ll take the life crystal embedded in his chest. Obviously, he’s not too happy about that, so he soon turns from slave to fugitive. He defies captivity and pursues his mission under fire from all sides. What secret will he find in the lair of Dr. Mindskull?
Dr. Mindskull is the antagonist building the secret weapon, the Nova Seed. He’s like a Furry Skeletor. The cast is rounded out by a mysterious girl with uncanny power, a treacherous mutant fly, masked soldiers, a grizzled assassin, and newscasters standing in for the masses. A talking pig makes a funny cameo.
It’s a cyberpunk world of flying gunships and desolate deserts. It’s a decadent future resembling a Moebius comic or Heavy Metal the movie. Apart from the neo-animal scenes, the world building happens with media fragments efficiently cut between action. Staticky news and surveillance mix in a trippy way on many screens at once, with a motif of breaking glass (which gets important later). Without a huge budget to create an epic world, it makes effective use of minimal exposition. It only tells you just what you need to know while the action moves forward.
Furry fans will love how the lion-man animation shifts from weighty and powerful but mostly human acting, to lunging and leaping like an actual lion during bursts of action. Fast pacing makes changes so smooth that it all fits his personality. He isn’t drawn with no tail as in Bojack Horseman – often his lashing tail tells his mood. It’s top notch anthropomorphism.
There’s bonus furry points for an epic hug that saves the world.
I was blown away by how the animation is deployed inside limits for effective mood and story. No need for zillion dollar CG crowd shots here. But there are plenty of money shots with vehicle and effects animation. A comic booky look is achieved with flat color blocks enriched with subtle gradients. (I assume assistants were valuable for ink & paint.) “2 1/2D” style compositing fleshes out the layouts with sophisticated depth of field and cinematic lighting. (Sorry, those are boring terms…) I mean nothing feels flat or dead. Shots with no character animation have lighting playing across surfaces with flickers and electric glares. It pushes storytelling with mood and color design. Unlike many low-budget productions, I never felt taken out of the movie by short cuts to avoid labor. The art sings like Judas Priest.
The voice acting is a fine support for good animation. If I can point out one flaw, it might be sound production that makes you have to pay careful attention to what’s said. Otherwise, I give good points to effects and composing that improves the story with synthwave music.
You’ve seen high quality sci fi anime, but North American animation very rarely does anything like this. (This movie is supported by a small but strong Toronto scene with French and European influences.)
Does this perk your ears? Are your whiskers twitching? Nova Seed looks like what I imagine could come out of my favorite art subculture some day – something like this is a holy grail of furry art. This movie kicks so much ass, it’s a strong contender for my favorite in animation. I’m excited to introduce it. Nobody gives support like furry fans, and if it gains more love, I hope it leads to bigger budgets and a great future for this director.
(Vice has a great article about Nova Seed. I know of only a handful of indie creators attempting such projects. Keep an eye out for news here about these similar 2D animated features in production: Dawgtown and The Saga of Rex.)