‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ Lindsey Olivares – Deadline

For Netflix The Mitchells vs. the Machines, produced by Sony Pictures Animation, the idea for “Katie Vision” bounced around a bit, until production designer Lindsey Olivares got her hands on one of their animation tests. Director Mike Rianda said, “One weekend without telling anyone, she just stole an animation and drew on the screen and just did it with the shitty Photoshop she had on her computer. It was so exciting to basically see the super expensive animated movie that a teenager had tagged all over the place.

The story of The Mitchells vs. the Machines is told from the perspective of Katie Mitchell, an aspiring film student. “Katie Vision” was used to give the film the aesthetic of a college student with a passion for filmmaking.


DEADLINE: When I spoke to the director, Mike Rianda, he mentioned that you had the idea for “Katie Vision”.

LINDSEY OLIVARES: There was a version of us testing ideas, but I think it was a vague idea. And I feel like with a lot of this stuff, you have to show it and try it to find out what it’s going to be and if it works. With these visual content elements, they are so visual that it helps to create them. And it was this weirder idea, so it was hard to say, “Oh, let’s get a 2D animator,” or something like that. And I also think conceptually and philosophically it should be like Katie did. It should have that feeling, I shouldn’t feel like I need to hire a professional Disney 2D animator to do it. It should look like something Katie could draw on her phone with a little more primitive tools. This uninhibited thing that we try to recreate, this someone who is just starting film school and who has not had the edges sanded, he had nothing to hold him back. So we try to find that in ourselves and find that in the style.

I saw they were testing an animation, so I messaged our lead animator and said, “Hey, can you send me this test?” And I just asked them off the record until I got this. So it was like, “Okay, I’ve got this. And now let me collage in these animated, but static 3D renders.” So they weren’t in 3D animation, but I made them rotated, I rotated them. I made 2D animation of badgers and opossums and had one of our artists help me write some text. Then we just had a test that said, “That’s what we mean when we talk about Katie Vision and draw on the screen.” And we featured it in the photo shoot and it went really well.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines - concept art


DEADLINE: I feel like the “Katie Vision” gives a really good idea that this whole movie is Katie’s movie, like she edited everything that happened in it.

OLIVARES: Absolutely, and there were times before we did that, like in the movie where she talks about it, and it looks like that’s what she does. So it’s like, how do we match this visually? My favorite thing is in this one, where you feel like the person drawing it is spending time with it. There are little faces on the Cheetos. There are little Aaron’s dinosaur-drawn eyes on his shirt and a little rubber dinosaur toy has a little hand-drawn face. It’s really subtle, you probably don’t catch it on first viewing. But I feel like when you’re creative, there are things you do just for the love of the craft, like sometimes people say, “Oh, no one will care.” Nobody will see that. But I feel like when you’re an artist doing things, that’s not how you approach things. You just do it because you like to have fun doing it and you’re into it.