When the latest diabolical plans from the terrifying Dr. Mindskull threatens the world, Nac — a fierce gladiatorial lion-man — is kidnapped by the humans and forced into service. However, once in Mindskull’s fortress, Nac uncovers the truth: the fight is over a strange female creature that has the ability to control life itself. Now Nac must protect her, against both the humans and Dr. Mindskull.
Even though we seldom cover animated movies on Film Bizarro, Fantasia’s selections this year made it impossible to ignore them. “Nova Seed” in particular caught my attention early on due to the publicity stills; the style seemed simplistic and almost crude but just unusual enough that I wanted to find out more about it. When I read upon the film and how it was animated entirely by its creator, Nick DiLiberto, over the course of four years, I thought that “Nova Seed” deserved to be seen for that amount passion and effort alone. A decision I was glad I made because while I’ve been fortunate enough to see lots of great films at Fantasia, DiLiberto’s movie did something to me that rarely happens at film festivals — it made me want to watch it again after it was over.
Having the knowledge before hand that “Nova Seed” was created independently by DiLiberto helped me in a way. While I won’t say these things inspired DiLiberto, for me, it was hard not to be reminded of movies like “Heavy Metal” and “Rock and Rule” or the work of Ralph Bakshi. And even though “Nova Seed” brings up some familiarity, it never feels derivative. As the movie gets going, and knowing the history behind the production, it becomes apparent as to why certain decisions were made. Going with simpler designs and a color palette allowed DiLiberto to put focus on what was important: creating an experience.
Now, when I say the designs are simpler, that is not to indicate that DiLiberto cut corners. The choice in design and animation style is one that comes across as being logical for a one-man production, while still being creative as well. Something that’s practical for its creator but still aesthetically satisfying for the viewer. Part of what also makes it satisfying is the fluid motion in the animation. In a way, it compliments the general aesthetics but the overall smoothness makes the movie easy to watch. Not to compare movies, but when you watch “Seoul Station” — a computer animated film — there’s a general stiffness in the way characters move that can take you out of the movie (you know something’s not right but not quite sure why). The animation style in “Nova Seed” has such natural movement it almost gives the appearance of being rotoscoped, even though, obviously, that’s not how it was created.
I’m sure getting the movie to have such clean movements and motion was a challenge for DiLiberto but it works in favor of the experience in watching “Nova Seed”. In animation, you tend to notice the shortcuts used in between the key frames to make it easier on the animators while still getting the visual point across. Here, even the smallest movements are given such detail that it feels less like you’re watching an animated movie and more like live action.
Beyond the animation, what also adds to the experience is how the narrative functions through audience engagement. DiLiberto follows that old filmmaking adage of show don’t tell; there’s a grand story that’s being told in “Nova Seed” but DiLiberto lets the action tell the film’s story. In fact, there are only two scenes that I can recall that existed to create exposition for the audience — once in the beginning and once in the end. For the rest of the film, the audience is informed through actions, characters, and the environment. Essentially, it’s the audiences’ responsibility to understand what’s occurring within “Nova Seed”. All of the information is there for you but it’s doled out naturally through the film’s progression, which allows the audience to keep up, but without ever bogging the movie down in order to explain what’s happening.
What’s also admirable about the format of the narrative is that the audience is dropped into a story that’s already underway. Yet in the way that it’s handled, the audience is never lost. The audience doesn’t know why there is a functioning modern society blended in with a post-apocalyptic world with bio-creatures and anthropomorphic insects. We also don’t know the details of our protagonist or antagonist and how they fit within this world. But it just makes watching that much rewarding because you're constantly discovering parts of this world. And as much as I hate to use the phrase, part of the reason for that success is because the world within “Nova Seed” is fully realized. Where everything from the environment to the technology allows you build everything while the story unfolds.
Watching “Nova Seed” was an experience because I found myself immersed in the world that Nick DiLiberto created. The way in which each element was handled — from design and animation to characters and narrative structure — came together in way that you simply allow yourself to be swept up in an adventure of a creature trying to save the world. It’s exciting and fun, and how easily this film is able to draw a viewer into its world is what made me want to go back into it right after it was over.