In 1977, Voyagers 1 and 2 were sent hurtling off into space on missions to explore our solar system and beyond, carrying 12-inch, gold-plated copper disks full of images and sounds from Earth. Like a “bottle into the cosmic ocean,” as famed astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan described them, when their power runs out they’ll continue on into deep space as floating relics of a time and place in our planet’s history, a snapshot of who we were.
Sagan headed the committee that decided what would be included on the album, which features 115 images, sounds from the natural world, greetings in 55 different languages, written messages from President Carter and U.N. Secretary General Waldheim, and music from different cultures. “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced spacefaring civilizations in interstellar space,” Sagan said, adding that the endeavor said “something very hopeful about life on this planet.”
But what if Voyager wasn’t found by any distant civilization? What if instead, after hundreds of years, it found its way home, back here on earth. What might it discover about what became of the creatures that sent it away? What kind of home would it return to?
And what would the images and sounds of that earth look and sound like to the people of tomorrow?
This beautiful animated short from Supamonks Studios, called “Voyager,” (which we first saw at io9), was written and directed by Loïc Magar and Roman Veiga, and it imagines an empty, dirty planet, where a little girl is the only one around to listen and watch the golden record when it finally plays the story of us.
The tone and feel of this short is reminiscent of Pixar’s Wall-E (a singular character left alone on a deserted planet among the ruins of metropolis). Whereas Wall-E was a machine, the lone inhabitant here is a human, though still as reliant on technology as mankind has ever been. So much so that she still keeps the lights on in the city, and is moved to do so by her own robotic body parts.
Her transformation by the film’s end is a poignant, understated moment of irony, where the greatest technology of mankind from centuries earlier pushes her to discover the planet for what it really is.
Primarily computer animated, the decision to use stop motion for the album itself adds an element of distance between the time Voyager was first sent into space and the world it returns to here, highlighting that even though this is a message sent by the people of earth and meant for distant lifeforms that wouldn’t know us, that it was still discovered by someone very different than us, someone that didn’t really know who we were.
As Sagan said, the golden record says “something very hopeful about life on this planet,” and though the world it returns to here might seem empty—empty of people and empty of hope—that’s exactly what it brings with it on this trip home.
A little girl, seeing the beauty of this blue marble, and hearing the messages and sounds of people that longed for a brighter future, is inspired to make her life better.
What could be more hopeful than that?
What did you think of this short? Voyage down into our comments below to tell us what you think.
Images: Supamonks Studio
Golden Album Image: NASA