Poignant and absurdist in equal measure, Nick Vokey and Nate Sherman vividly transmute the melancholy pitfalls of corporate management culture to a one-way creative job redundancy on an extraterrestrial colony, in their latest animated short Fired on Mars.
Citing Hergé as a stylistic influence, Nick and Nate subtly subvert the expectation of a Tintin-esque adventure with a mixture of melancholy and humour: “We liked the idea of something as exciting as Mars colonisation eventually becoming boring…the only thing worse than eternity in a blandly-corporate Mars colony is getting fired from it and not being able to leave,” they explain.
Beautifully simplistic, hand-drawn imagery of barren red landscapes, medium shots of sullen faces and an unhurried animation style capture this undercurrent of ennui rife throughout. Jeff’s opening vlog home to his wife is met with no reply and the only real human contact we see him have is with his boss on a telepresence commuter robot screens.
The filmmakers explain: “We’re really interested in corporate isolation – smoked-glass suburban office parks, meaningless jobs, internet jobs. Mars felt like a great place to have fun with that kind of modern alienation.”
Actor Sean Wing provides an acerbic wit to his reading of the script that speaks deeply to anyone who has lost or missed out on a job for creativity or not fulfilling the rigid checkboxes of the company ethos adequately: “you’re a super guy Jeff, and you’re super talented…but Ted’s just a better culture-fit.”
And has there ever been a line more subversive yet befitting than: “one afternoon I got an all-company email; there’d been another gravity accident and Carol from Human Resources had been decapitated.”