This speculative ecology animation imagines what undiscovered deep sea creatures may look like

Digital artist and animator Alice Aires looks into the importance of deep sea creatures and their impact on the ecosystem.

9 October 2020


Growing up on the Portuguese coast in the city of Lagos, a young Alice Aires remembers her first creative venture was actually music. Having studied classical piano, she soon gravitated towards more visual forms of expression. Drawing followed suit and she then taught herself how to digitally paint using Photoshop, drawing inspiration from the visceral nature surrounding her on the Algarve. As an animation student in London, she would go onto combine these two interests; CGI met traditional animation which in turn, met music and documentary filmmaking.

Now, having recently graduated with a Master’s degree from London’s Royal College of Art, Alice flexes her creative interdisciplinary muscles in her project Plastified: An Ode. She describes it as “a deep sea dive through a partially speculative ecology that strives to document places where cameras can’t see, crystallising strange and hidden life forms from Earth.” In the bioluminescent, near three minute spectacle, creatures emerge from the depths of science and are digitally memorialised by the very substance that caused their extinction in the first place: plastic.

Subtly pointing to the pollution of micro plastic, the underwater journey takes us on a tour of unknown species galore. Alice underwent a torrent of research leading up the production process. She looked into the history of plastic’s relationship with its maker, humans, not to mention ocean ecology and pollution. In an informative discussion with marine biologies and ocean activist Inês Guedes, Alice was struck not only by the fact that were are losing extensive amounts of biodiversity due to pollution. But also the realisation that there are a number of underwater species that are yet to be discovered that may never come to light.


Alice Aires: Plastified: An Ode (Copyright © Alice Aires, 2020)

This is not only a loss for marine biologists but more importantly, the ecosystems which rely heavily on such deep sea creatures. In turn, Alice went about exploring what these uncategorised species might be, or look like. Her and Inês “selected existing groups of animals which made up a logical ‘could-be’ ecosystem from which the creatures in the film were drawn,” while making sure not to simply anthropomorphise certain objects, but rather show what they might be in their own right.

Plastified is made in collaboration with sound designer Barney Kass and Felix Weyss who provide the additional animation assets. Barney’s role was instrumental in the process, crafting sonorous rhythms which push and pull the hypnotic flow of the animation. The soundtrack is key in setting the mysterious deep sea environment where these creatures can be found. A hint to Alice’s continued interest in the medium sparked by her early years with piano. Fittingly experimental, the music matches the improvisational techniques used in creating the animation.

Though Alice created a base structure for the film in the form of a storyboard, she made sure there enough room for spontaneity to unfold. Ultimately however, she wanted the short to raise awareness on the increasing effects of climate change. “A few years back I started experiencing eco-anxiety,” she says on the added importance of the work. “I wanted to make a work that felt purposeful in that sense. Making this film was a further incentive for me to look into my own consumer habits and make more deliberate choices.” And with this intention at the forefront of her work, as for the future, Alice hopes she can expand on the theme of this project, looking into how she can bridge the gap between animation, art and sustainability.


Alice Aires: Plastified: An Ode (Copyright © Alice Aires, 2020)

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About the Author

Jynann Ong

Jynann joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. She went freelance in 2022.

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