MAX has joined the new wave of innovative animated television and film that movies such as “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse” have spawned, with its sleeper science fiction hit “Scavengers Reign.” The hand animated series follows five “scavengers,” stranded on the mysterious planet Vesta Minor and their attempts to survive in this treacherous environment. “Scavengers Reign” began as a 2016 short film before it grew into a full-fledged series.
Co-creator Joseph Bennett noted the short film’s core mechanic of characters transforming alien organisms into human tools needed to be carried over: “The idea going into the series was cherry picking things from (the short film), and kind of retaining a lot of this lush ecosystem,” Bennett said in an interview with The Daily Californian.
The team behind “Scavengers Reign” found it essential to craft a science fiction narrative that wasn’t focused on contextualizing the world of its characters, but instead on highlighting intricate, patient visuals.
“I think it was just wanting to tell a story that is trying to do as little exposition through narrative as possible,” Bennet noted. “Not feeling like you need to hold the audience’s hand the whole way through … and sort of treating it a little bit more like this sort of mystery, and letting it play out a little slower.”
“All of that stuff just had no dialogue, and I just thought it would be a fun exploration,” Bennett said. “And it did just start to slowly evolve more and more … there’s so much stuff that exists in nature on earth that has got a lot of that horror and creepiness to it”.
“Scavengers Reign” brings to mind documentaries such as “Planet Earth” and “Our Planet,” an intentional design by the show’s team. Bennett explained how nature documentaries also sparked the inspiration for the original short film. When developing the show, Bennett also sought out primitive technology Youtube channels, which depict entire wood or dirt houses and buildings would be constructed in silence on screen.
The show’s origins are rooted squarely in the indie animation community. Bennett emphasized how he got his start working on and sharing videos he’d made online before launching his career with Adult Swim shorts and other commissioned works. The team behind “Scavengers Reign” also communicated almost entirely virtually during COVID, with many animators working from around the globe, contributing to its more varied visual style.
“The main takeaway would just be that this was a very passionate project. I think everybody that worked on it really poured their sweat and tears into it,” Bennett said. “There was no cutting corners and everyone had a true love for traditional, 2D animation.”
In an industry increasingly dominated by 3D animation, Bennett made sure to emphasize the importance of creating a series that resists the classic, Western-animated style found in shows such as Netflix’s “The Dragon Prince” or films such as Universal’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
“I know that a lot of stuff that you might see these days, especially in American TV, is very kind of rigged, and puppetted. And we just wanted to try doing something different,” Bennet said.
A large selling point of the series is the elaborate alien sequences where characters interact with Vesta Minor. The show is packed with these; Bennett aptly refers to them as “Rube-Goldberg” moments, in which the scavengers transform alien lifeforms into tools through a series of meticulously animated steps.
Bennett reflected on his favorite of these moments to bring to life: A small scene where one of the characters, Ursula, stumbles across a plant, which opens to show the entire life-cycle of an alien in just a few seconds.
“The idea was just focusing on a very tiny, seemingly insignificant, mundane thing and making it feel epic and regal and grandiose, just going bananas with that,” Bennett noted.
While “Scavengers Reign” may be filled with alien imagery and science fiction fantasies, Bennett is invested in tempting audiences to take a second look at the seemingly normal world around them.
“As cheesy as it might sound, I wanted it to feel like when you walk past an ant-pile and think nothing of it. And yet there’s so much complexity and beauty that we just seem to overlook.”