Don Hertzfeld’s three World of Tomorrow short films form one of the better, if not the best, animated trilogies in cinematic history. I recognize that this is a wildly hyperbolic opening claim, but as all three of the sci-fi parables are fantastic, the claim stands. Comprised of talking stick figures in digitally-animated environments poetically musing about existential dread, these short films are barely a feature-length film combined (17, 23, and 34 minutes, respectively), yet pack a philosophical wallop which strikes a perfect balance between the comic and the melancholic.
Where the first two episodes focused on the adorable Emily and a conversation with her future clones about time and memory, the central figure here is David, who receives a mysterious memory-as-message from another clone, Emily 9, again voiced in the now-familiar monotone of Julia Potts. As David floats through the wonder of outer space in his grungy spacecraft, he stares blankly at the digital screen of infinite ads and online shopping, clicking away into oblivion. When a new memory suddenly arrives in his mental files, he discovers a message implanted by Emily 9 from the future into his past infant self. Her invitation prompts him on a quest to find the source of the transmission, and thus the potential source of meaning and love in his life. There’s only one problem: his computer—and thus his mental faculties, for the two are intertwined—isn’t capable of handling the fancy future technology, David thus has to shut down various intellectual and physical capacities in order to keep moving towards Emily 9, a pilgrimage which may bring him to the end of himself. Beyond this basic plot structure, there is time travel, cloning, and time-traveling clone assassins.
Episode Three is, in many ways, a standalone story which can be appreciated even by those who haven’t seen the previous Emily-focused films. Though a bit over-long and slow-paced, it’s a distinctly romantic story, where David’s mysterious and intense attraction to Emily moves him (and his various clones) through time and space in order to find the one he seemingly loves. In this way, the plot draws apt comparisons to Christopher Nolan’s films, as time travel, memory, dreams, and identity are all part of the epic journey. Hertzfeld’s animation techniques have improved since the first episode; in particular, the nebula and on-planet scenes are rich in awe-inspiring color and detail. Yet for all of the visual innovations, Hertzfeld remains true to his signature elements: simple stick figures imbued with deeply complex emotions and metaphysical quandaries.
IMDB Listing: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12837488/