By Nicole Zamlout
The release of “Model Citizen,” a short film that was posted on the YouTube channel Dead Sound on Jan. 10, seems to be a sign that 2-D animation is coming back after a long hiatus.
Run by animator David James Armsby, Dead Sound is the fifth installment of an ongoing series titled “Autodale,” which began back in 2017. The short film follows a set of citizens in the automated town, the Robinsons, who are showcased as model citizens and are treated as such throughout the show.
The story takes a look at passivity and acceptance, asking the viewer how far is too far when it comes to accepting the given rules of our society. While the other films in the series share this theme, “Model Citizen” is the first that makes it a central focus, presenting the town from the perspective of the adults within the society.
The first three films of the series followed the children of Autodale, while the fourth film took the perspective of an outsider, giving viewers a fresh perspective. While the series’ dystopian world was never seen as a paradise, “Model Citizen” really explores just how deeply the mechanical mentality of the town goes in a haunting and thought-provoking story of those who follow the rules.
The film clearly depicts the intended horror of Autodale — how citizens continue to live with rules and yet are “happy, unquestioning, and delusional,” as the animator, Armsby, said in a video. The faith the citizens have in their society’s system is distinctively displayed on screen, giving the story an alarming edge.
The artwork is the true star of the film. The character’s textures, movements and expressions were varied throughout the movie and extremely well-executed. With the characters feeling almost real, it lent itself well to the ultimate ending of the story, cleverly mocking a classic Hollywood kiss ending.
Along with the Robinson’s themselves, the artwork for the settings, backgrounds and robots were equally well-done, giving the robots an even more unsettling presence while also highlighting the truly dismal setting of this portion of Autodale. Hopefully, some will see the artwork and designs that push the bounds of what 2-D can do and continue to develop its potential.
Along with the art, the sound design helped cement the setting and add to the unsettling tone of the short film. Including the song “Waltz of the Flowers” by Tchaikovsky was a brilliant stroke of irony considering the mechanical setting and the robotic residents of Autodale. It also highlighted the absurdity of the situation, as two citizens happily and blindly followed the rules of their society to the end. They never question the ethics or ideas they are presented, waltzing their days away both literally and figuratively.