Sophie – a London-based, Royal College of Art-trained animator, with a dream client list (Adult Swim, Rick & Morty ident, School of Life commission, work for Nike) – began thinking about Slug Life’s storyline in 2016. After the decision to “dramatically move to Berlin after Brexit happened (lol),” the base idea of the film began to develop while living with a German doctor “who took me under her wing and showed me her wild life and all the incredible characters in it”. Yet the central storyline, of a woman who makes a slug partner for her pleasure, links back to Sophie’s ongoing fascination with “inter-special relationships on screen,” she tells us. “I was spending a lot of time in my bedroom alone… I watched a lot of nature documentaries and slug sex just blew my mind – it’s so alien and perfect. It just made sense to me that if you were going to make a sexbot, it would be a slug.” Even just these two references demonstrate the several layers of the film, each always picked up from several different places, references and moments in the animator’s life.
The joy of Slug Life is in these layers, and the fact that it’s generally quite difficult to navigate as a plot. It loops through different emotions, dialogues and a rotating cast of characters yet somehow, as a viewer, you don’t mind. You’re too busy chuckling at Sophie’s dark humour, her developed airbrushed animation style, and the several winks and nods sewed throughout.
“To write a storyline as sloppy as Slug Life, you have to just do what you want, when you want to do it,” she tells us. Developing this narrative approach in an act against what was encouraged at the RCA, Sophie’s approach to filmmaking is more in praise of the elements “that I enjoy the most,” she says. “The awkward bits, the little looks, strange dialogue and reactions… an ABC plot would, for me, just be an afterthought.” Therefore following her own advice of starting with “a scene or character that you are obsessed with, and work your way around it – forwards and back,” she explains. “As you write, design and animate it, you’ll link things up that can be used to structure it a bit more, bookend and reference.”
It’s for this reason that fans of Sophie’s will notice the reoccurrence of characters she developed while at the RCA. “It seemed a shame not to use them again,” she says, “and anyway, they’re grown now, ageing well!” Unfussed with making new characters, as “these ones are changing all the time anyway,” each role Sophie develops is like a Frankenstein of people she’s met.