It’s been three years since Netflix’s FYC (For Your Consideration) events — known as “FYSEE” — were held in person. But from May 15 to June 12, Raleigh Studios’ FYSEE space hosted plenty of Q&As, meet-and-greets, musical performances and more, all to give audiences the chance to explore some of their favorite series. – or shows they’ve never heard. of – before voting for the Emmys.
One of the FYSEE activities this year was the Women Drawn to Animation panel, where Esoteric executive producer Melinda Dilger, Big mouth and Human ressources co-creator and executive producer Jennifer Flackett, Human ressources co-creator and showrunner Kelly Galuska, and Love, Death + Robots Volume 3 episode The very pulse of the machine Director Emily Dean gathered for a panel discussion on some of Netflix’s most acclaimed animated series. Topics ranged from favorite childhood cartoons of creatives to working with talented voice actors.
But one of the most poignant topics discussed was how all of their series had ambitious reach and could have received immense reviews, but instead exploded in popularity among Netflix viewers.
During the roundtable, Dilger even admitted that she didn’t expect Esoteric to be the groundbreaking series it has become – winning multiple Annie Awards for its animated effects, character animation and design, directorial work, production design, storyboarding, writing and voice acting.
“When I first came in for the interview for this job, I was like, ‘Ugh, some game company is trying to do an animated TV show – it’s gonna suck,'” Dilger recalled. “And so I went to the interview and I didn’t have my A-game. They say, ‘You’re going to meet about five people. It’s going to be a pretty intensive interview process. And so I sat down at Riot and they said to me, ‘Have you seen anything from the show? We have a little pilot that we did. I was like, ‘No, I haven’t seen it.’ They were like, ‘Okay, before we start your interviews, we’ll press play and see what you think, and then we’ll come back.’ And I’m sitting there and I’m like, ‘Uh oh. Actually, it’s going to be really good and I better play my A-game. So no, I wasn’t expecting that at all.
Esoteric‘s story – derived from the famous video game League of Legends – follows the character Vi as she attempts to both rescue her kidnapped sister, who she believes has been brainwashed, and save her town from falling prey to an increasingly powerful group of individuals seeking to create weapons of mass destruction.
“It was amazing,” Dilger notes of the pilot she watched before her interview. “And to this day, I just can’t believe the honor given to me to work on such an amazing project. And it eventually became this giant hit with fans around the world. It has a new fan base. It was meant to be just a love letter to gamers. And now it’s adored by so many people who’ve never even heard of League of Legends. Plus, all the Annies and all that are pretty cool too.
Flackett remembers having a similar experience early in development Big mouth, a show that explores often untouched realms of puberty and sex through humorous and sometimes uncomfortable interactions with beasts called “hormone monsters.” The series now has five seasons available on Netflix and has already received three Primetime Emmy Awards.
“It’s so funny because just before Big mouth came out, my husband – because we work together, we’re partners – was lying in bed and he said, ‘I’m afraid we’ve done a show for nobody, because it’s a show about children for adults,” and that’s how we fell asleep that night,” the designer recalls. “And then we woke up and we realized that everyone had gone through puberty. If you watch the show, you should be going through puberty or past puberty. That’s what we tell people. And maybe some parents think that even after puberty they should let their kids watch, and that’s right too. But it was really this thing of, ‘Oh wow, these stories. What a powerful time in life.’ What a powerful moment when you became a person’, and how much embarrassment and shame we have about those moments.
She continues: “I remember having my period for the first time. All these things. And being able to harness that for everyone and being able to have that conversation, I think that’s a big part of that. That, ‘Oh wow, we’ve all been through these things together.’ And then when you add Nick Kroll and Maya [Rudolph] as our hormonal monsters, it is our IDs that run amok.
Big mouth was so acclaimed that the series – which is still going strong – has branched out with a spin-off: Human ressourcesa workplace comedy where Big mouthMonsters are now assigned to a group of adult humans – along with Shame Wizards, Logic Rocks and more – to represent their feelings.
“It allows us to dig into those deep emotions that all humans have experienced, like grief, like losing someone,” shares co-creator Galuska. “And because this show is animated, we can both anthropomorphize grief, show how grief gets really, really huge if you ignore it. It gets really scary. But if you give in to it, it’s a comfort. It is something you must have as part of your life. And that’s something that we got to visualize, which is really nice. And then juxtapose it with just madness, like boxing penises, for example.
In the case of Love, Death + Robots – an anthology series of animated short stories exploring… well… love, death and robots – it’s not just the unapologetic narrative that has made the future of the series uncertain, but also its experimental animation, which serves as the backbone of the series. But, from 2D to CG, from hyperrealism to abstract cartoons, Love, Death + Robots‘ animated smorgasbord made it a multiple Primetime Emmy and Annie Award winner.
The series has given many animators and storytellers a sandbox to play with. But, in Dean’s case, it was still a gamble to bring his hybrid 2D/3D animated short to life in Volume 3, The very pulse of the machinewhich follows an astronaut’s psychedelic journey from a crash site on the “IO” moon to base camp.
“It was originally going to be in Volume 2, but we need to work on the technology,” Dean explains. “That’s why it’s in Volume 3. I said, ‘That’s how I want it to look. That’s what I want to do’, and Jennifer [Yuh Nelson] said, excuse my language, ‘We have no idea how we’re going to do this. But that’s what this show is here for and we’re so excited to do it with you.
Dilger is also no stranger to the new frontiers that animation treads, as advancements in technology have allowed creators to combine multiple styles and techniques into their final visuals.
“You could never marry 2D with CG,” Dilger says of previous years where the animation wasn’t as up to par. “Now you can marry both. You can do all kinds of things with compositing and effects. The computer is a magical, magical thing. So we’re able to take really amazing 2D work and marry it with CG, and it’s just amazing. It worked very well for Esoteric.”
And it’s worked really well for Netflix, a streaming platform that’s increasingly filled with increasingly experimental anime and animated stories. As the popularity of shows like Big mouth, Esoteric, Human ressources and Love, Death + Robots grows, the hope is also that the vision of animation’s place in serious storytelling will also become more widely accepted and even celebrated, perhaps with more and more Emmy awards. We can only hope.
The Emmys will take place on Monday, September 12. Voting began on Thursday June 16.
Victoria Davis is a full-time freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She reported many stories ranging from activist news to entertainment. To learn more about his work, visit victoriadavisdepiction.com.