A surprise has come to Netflix. Next Gen is a shiny, smooth and polished animation. The finished surfaces and lighting actually challenge the viewer not to think of some of the latest live-action SciFi movies. Throughout the plot, there are several nods to screen standouts like Blade Runner, Minority Report, Ghost in the Shell and the animated Big Hero 6. There’s plenty more aside.
As a Canadian-Chinese co-production, Next Gen is based on a comic story by Wang Nima, called 7723. This is the number given to the robot who befriends a dispirited 12-year old girl named Mai Su. One of those ‘us against the world’ stories, which goes by surprisingly fast for the over 90-minute movie. Must mean I enjoyed myself.
Written and directed by a duo team of Joe Ksander and Kevin Adams and produced by Baozou Manhua, the animation was done in Canada, at Toronto’s Tangent Animation studio. Worldwide rights for this film were picked up by Netflix earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival for US$30 million. The plentiful action sequences are vibrant and filled with the most explosive details. They throw the viewer into a cascade of nods to those movies listed early. The sweeping aerial roads and car chases in the metropolis called Grainland, is helped many of the key lead crew being a part of past live-action stories like Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the Next Gen city location also brings in Los Angeles and NYC for inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, the two robot company representatives bear a striking resemblance to Steve Wosniak and, perhaps to a lesser degree Steve Jobs, right down to the on-stage marketing presentations.
Speaking to Animation World Network, Joe Ksander says he refers to the city as a happy Blade Runner, with threads of referenced movies as far afield as Dog Day Afternoon, E.T., and The French Connection.