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Shadowland (1988)


Giant, vampiric winged insects attack humans. The humans evolve into winged creatures. The insects disappear and the first steam-driven machines appear.

Curator’s notes

The Gothic elements of death, decay and terror are evident in the monochromatic fantasy world of Shadowland. In Anthony Lucas’s student film, huge insects attack and devour thin human forms in a stark landscape before they themselves are eventually consumed by the earth and their human victims evolve into winged creatures. The world that Lucas creates is influenced by the animator’s love of ‘monsters and the mysterious’ and, in particular, the inspiration he derives from the Victorian fiction of Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe.

The Shadowlands is a Gothic wasteland, what Lucas describes as ‘a silhouette world of spindly figures dwarfed by bleak, windswept landscapes, of Jules Verne machines and dark undiscovered continents that only yield their secrets at great peril’. The Shadowlands has three ages: agrarian, industrial and the radium age. In this film, the agrarian age gives way to the beginnings of the industrial age.

A steam-train engine appears toward the end, a precursor to the steam-powered engines and cog-driven machinery which populate the city of Gothia in Lucas’s later film, The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005). In contrast, however, Shadowland contains no dialogue and the animation technique is understandably less detailed and sophisticated.

Shadowland gave the name to Lucas’s unique silhouette animation style, also seen in his films Holding Your Breath (2001) and Jasper Morello (2005). The technique combines 2D and 3D elements: silhouette paper cut-outs of hand-drawn characters are scanned, then digitally manipulated and combined with actual objects such as sticks and leaves to create a textured environment. Although the style has been compared with Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Lucas explains that he accidentally stumbled on the technique when a light on an animation table went out.

Following completion of Shadowland at the Swinburne Film and Television School, Lucas established his own company, 3D Films, which also produced The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello (2005).