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A pair of cute robots run into unexpected peril in short film Planet Unknown

Shawn Wang’s recently completed short film Planet Unknown looks a bit like WALL·E. It features a pair of rovers sent to a planet to see if it can harbor life, and as they set out to complete their mission, they run into some unexpected troubles.

Comparisons to WALL·E are appropriate

Wang told The Verge that comparisons to WALL·E are appropriate: he was inspired in part by Pixar’s 2008 film. But inspiration came from other places as well: “The idea [for the film] was actually inspired by Interstellar’s two robots TARS & CASE. I love those two characters, so I started developing the story about intellectual robots on mission without humans.”

In addition to other films, Wang noted that he drew on the design of NASA’s Curiosity, Opportunity, and Sojourner rovers. “The idea is functional first (like suspension, arms & head) then [they] must look cute.”

The pair of robots work as a team, Wang said. The orange robot was the smarter and braver of the pair, because it was designed to carry out more complicated tasks, while the blue robot was a bit simpler, responsible for transporting the samples. Wang noted that he acted out the parts in his room to “find the correct performance to convey the emotion.” The end result is a cute film about teamwork and friendship.

It took Wang four months to animate the film’s assets before moving on to create animatic previews and to assemble each shot. Once that process had been completed, he began to animate the characters, leaving the film to render while he slept. “Cinema 4D, plugin TurbulenceFD and Octane for C4D were heavily used for most of the tasks,” he recalled. All in all, the film took 11 months to complete.

Wang animated Planet Unknown as his senior thesis at Communication University of China. Now that he’s graduated, he noted that he will likely be picking up work soon, but that he plans to continue to make short animated films on the side.

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