Moseying Out Into the Multiverse With the Quantum Cowboys: Geoff Marslett probes memory and the many-worlds theory in his new animated mind-bender at AFS Cinema – Screens

Quantum Cowboys

Shocking News. Hollywood lied to you. The cavalcade of multiverse movies, well, that’s just not how the multiverse theory works. Apologies to Doctor Strange and Whirlpool time machine, but the Many Worlds Interpretation Theory doesn’t mean a bunch of realities that are the same but with hot dog fingers or all in sepia. And in his new film Quantum Cowboys, director Geoff Marslett uses animation and an Old West story to sketch what is really going on in our subjective universe. Marslett said: “I love the way the multiverse is used in the film to let you do everything, but the theories that you see really aren’t that close to what physics really says what’s going on the multiverse is going on. And part of me said, wouldn’t it be cool to use cinema to let people experience something close to what science says?”

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Think about it like this. For his students at Boulder, Marslett is the academic who teaches them animation at the University of Colorado. For Austinites, he is one of the most important local filmmakers of the last decade. At the same time, he is a student of philosophy, mathematics and physics, having studied theoretical physics at the Naval Research Lab. All of this is true, which leads to it Quantum Cowboyswhich gets its Austin Premiere at AFS Cinema presented by Fantastic Fest.

“With the gift of total control comes the curse of total creation.” – Geoff Marslett

Again, perspective: Marslett is arguably most famous for his 2013 live-action tragedy, loves her gunbut his presence as an animator is arguably more pervasive – most recently in shorts like Phantom 52, but on the grandest scale with his 2010 animated sci-fi comedy romance, Mars. What drew you back to the medium? “Bad decision making,” he shrugged with a grin. This is true indie filmmaking, which he likened to “being an unsigned band…when you’re making something that’s unlike anything else out there, for better or for worse, you’re faced with this wall of people saying : ‘This is amazing, I really love it, it’s going to be great somewhere else.’” That was a phrase he heard often Mars, but he added, “Give him enough years and you forget what that challenge is like.”

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Any alternative vision in Quantum Cowboys has its own look, from rotoscopy to puppetry, collage to acrylics, each from a different animation house, including Austin’s own Minnow Mountain (Apollo 10½), Californian studios Mystery Meat Media and Artless Media, and Slamdance Award-winning animator and illustrator Shunsaku Hayashi. If you pay close attention, the director said, you can trace each interwoven thread through these stylistic differences. Every decision is considered, but, he added, “with the gift of control comes the curse of having to create everything yourself.” That’s why Marslett’s hand is in almost every picture Quantum Cowboys. “I personally worked on this film, five days a week, until 4 a.m. for 2½ years.” Without that level of commitment, “this movie wouldn’t exist under $5 million,” but the end result, he added, is the kind of movie that “the 15-year-old in me wishes they could come across.”

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Fantastic holiday gifts Quantum Cowboys, AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35 #3100, Saturday, September 24, 1 p.m. Tickets and info at Quantum Cowboys will also be streamed as part of the Fantastic Fest’s Virtual [email protected] Sept. 29-Oct. 4. Details at

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