I love going to YouTube to look at independent animators.
Independent animators are one of my favorite parts of YouTube. Some channels, like Gobelins and Omeleto collect animations from different animators in one channel. While these are great to find undiscovered gems.
But there are many people who manage to find success with their own channels. And that’s always great because those that find success running their own channels, are the ones who are doing something unique.
And David Armsby AKA Dead Sound is definitely one of those. While most of his videos are standalone, they explore interesting and complex topics like hubris of humanity, survival, technology and what it means to be alive. They also tend to feature dinosaurs and robots.
So, you know it’s awesome.
His most popular video series is his anthology series “Autodale.”There are five episodes currently out. The anthology focuses on the titular dystopian city where all the inhabitants live like it’s 1950s Americana.
Except that the adults wear creepy semi-expressionless masks, individuality isn’t a thing and anybody who isn’t “pretty,” i.e. young, straight, able-bodied, thin, heterosexual or as Armsby put it “dysfunctional from the viewpoint of a machine” is labeled as Ugly and killed off. And everyone becomes Ugly eventually.
The citizens are ruled by a being Armsby calls the Matriarch, a giant, inhuman, semi-nude being who lives hidden away in an VERY phallic tower and her army of robotic handymen who patrol the town.
The citizens see them as neighbors and protectors. They have their own action figures: in blue for boys and pink for girls, of course. Because they have to keep those gender norms in check! The toys are heavily featured in one of the episodes, aptly named “Children’s Toys.”
The whole thing is basically like an episode of The Twilight Zone
Each episode delves into a certain aspect of the society through the eyes of babes: the first episode introduces us to the society, another focuses on the propaganda sold to children via bedtime stories, and the latest one focuses on the life of the average Autodale citizen: this one in my opinion is the most horrifying of them all.
Because it shows just how accustomed to their lives these people have become. They’re so passive, so controlled that they see nothing wrong with lining up for their own death once their purpose is fulfilled.
There’s a moment where it seems like the husband may be questioning the norm, but instead he shakes the hand of one of the robots, perhaps thinking it’s the one who “checks in” on them every night. Like he’s leaving a job and wants to say goodbye to his coworker. It’s tragic and disturbing. Especially knowing that his young son thinks the same way.
But my favorite episode is “Don’t Feed the Freaks.” This episode focuses on a nameless wanderer who is making his way to Autodale based on scraps of paper he finds. He records all his findings in his diary. And he falls for it. He wants to go to the place where everyone is safe and pretty.
Also throughout the narrative, he begins to question everything he learns because he’s seen so many people trying to leave. He does come across other towns, with matriarchs of their own, but they’re all dead and abandoned.
The only living beings he says are the monstrous freaks. They’re giant, kind of reptilian beings with four arms. He avoids them, trying his best to never interact. But we’re only seeing things from his perspective leaving us to wonder about the true nature of the freaks.
All the animations are monochrome , animated with 3-D character models with 2-D backgrounds, so the characters pop but still look natural in their environment. He does all the animation himself, so that’s really impressive
Mouths don’t always move, which is why the mouths come in handy, but he manages to convey a lot of emotions via the masks and through the body language of the handymen. And the black and white coloring gives it a unique and distinctive aesthetic. The only color we ever see is the deep crimson blood.
The other shorts use the same style of animation but most of those are in color; Armsby seems to favor monochrome a lot in the pieces, which is pretty cool.
The Autodale shorts are all under seven minutes, and they’re released sparingly, because there’s a lot of work and time and effort that goes into these shorts. The Autodale series began in 2017 and was slowly released. There were no new episodes for over a year.
Then late last year Armsby announced he was adding three new shorts exploring the world. “Model Citizen” was released about a month ago.
And I’m super excited to see what aspect he digs into next. The next episode is supposed to be a Detective Noir style story and the other promises to take us beyond the walls of Autodale (which is supposed to be a continuation of “Don’t Feed the Freaks, but Armsby makes no promises with this.)
None of the stories feature the same characters and it’s impossible to know if they’re taking place at the same time. I do wonder if he’s planning on giving the stories a more overarching plot. There are definitely characters I want to see again.
But I actually really like that. We’re not going the typical dystopian route where one person brings down an entire government.
And it’s also cool because along with the stories, Armsby also releases videos documenting the behind scenesand making of process of many of his videos, so it’s interesting to get his perspective and understand the inspiration. They add a lot of context to the world.
But I just have a question…in the last making of, he mentioned that the citizens of Autodale don’t have first names only last names. So, the father is Robinson, and the son is Robinson Jr. Is the wife Mrs. Robinson? Lady Robinson? What happens when a family has a girl? Does she change her name? Or if they have a son and a daughter? Or two sons? Or two daughters?
How does marriage work? Childbirth? How does this society ensure that there is always a replacement?
It’s these pieces of the world I’m curious about. Naming in dystopian societies has always been fascinating to me. Sure, some like The Hunger Games go for something meaningful but I mean ones like The Giver, where only certain names are allowed, and they’re recycled. In this universe, not having names, Armsby says, is to show how replaceable and mechanical every part of the society is. And to represent their gene pool.
They live just to reproduce children to continue a never-ending, seemingly meaningless cycle.
And I really hope the series eventually explains how this cycle and this way of living came to be. What I really love about this series is that each time I watch an episode, I find some little detail I hadn’t noticed before. And the voice acting is superb. I love the robotic, synthetic voice of the handymen.
I wouldn’t be able to rate each one individually because they’re so dependent on one another for context. But I really recommend giving the series a shot! And checking out the new video…whenever it may come out.
And that’s the scoop
Year of release: 2017-2020
Length: 5 videos, 3 to 6 minutes
Creator/Producer/Writer: David Armsby
If you liked this review read: Four of my favorite Youtube cartoons