World of Tomorrow (2015)
Release Date: March 31st, 2015 MPAA Rating: G
Director: Don Hertzfeldt Actors: Julia Pott, Winona Mae
ello, Emily.” At a flashing computer station, a voice speaks to an infant girl who pushes buttons and slobbers, barely comprehending the words being spoken to her. The voice belongs to a version of Emily from 227 years into the future, where an advanced cloning process allows the transfer of memories into new bodies, to effectively generate immortality.
A neural network called the outernet has replaced the computer-based internet, though it’s still recognizable as a place where individuals can lose themselves forever. For the people of present time, this superior technology must surely look like magic. Full digital transfers of consciousness into cubes are available to those unable to afford cloned bodies, while the absolute lowest class citizens can still have their faces peeled off and stretched over a simple animatronic to provide joy to their enduring families.
“Do not dwell on petty detail. Now is the envy of all of the dead.” Like nearly all of animator Don Hertzfeldt’s projects, “World of Tomorrow” is inexplicably profound. Despite utilizing the simplest of visual effects – stick-figure drawings, the manipulation of the paper itself, a juxtaposition of photographs and incomplex computer animation – his tale of the future is rife with thought-provoking notions, including experimental time travel, full of unpredictability and danger; the harvesting of memories; a museum exhibit of a brainless clone, called David, who grows old in a glass tube for patrons to witness in real-time; the third-generation clone of Emily telling a brief history of supervising robots on the moon and falling in love with a rock and a fuel pump; and solar-powered automatons programmed to fear death, resulting in depressed robot poetry.
Amid the dark humor of absurd exchanges (baby Emily, voiced by Winona Mae, sounds as if she’s recorded at random, reflecting the mindless, carefree blithering and spontaneous observations of a child just learning to utter fragmented phrases) and narrator Julia Pott’s maddeningly severe cynicism, Hertzfeldt toys with alternating reflections on hope and doom. Mortality is an ever-present idea, somehow fused even with the ramblings of a toddler. “World of Tomorrow” is a must-see short, as dour as it is hilarious, expertly mining pathos and awe from the preposterous and the imaginative alike.
– Mike Massie