From 1990 to 1996, Odyssey Visual Design and Miramar Productions released a series of videos on VHS and, later, DVD with the intention of showcasing the talents of both computer graphics programs and the number of animators and animation studios current to the time, all set to electronic music. Hundreds of animators submitted animations to the project, and their work was put together in segments attempting to follow an overarching theme. The series was comprised of:
- The Minds Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey (Miramar Images, Inc., 1990): Music produced by James Reynolds
- Beyond the Minds Eye (Odyssey Visual Design, 1992): Music produced by Jan Hammer
- The Gate to the Minds Eye (Odyssey Visual Design, 1994): Music produced by Thomas Dolby
- Odyssey Into the Minds Eye (Odyssey Productions, 1996): Music produced by Kerry Livgren (founder and guitarist of the musical group Kansas)
The latter three also feature visual effects generated for films and television networks: Beyond has the virtual reality segments from The Lawnmower Man, animation from an old Hawaiian Punch commercial, and the old opening segment for Saturday Night Live; The Gate included then-current commercial advertisements for the Syfy Channel (the network's 90s logo can be seen on the sides of the spacecraft in Armageddon); and Odyssey has the computer reality segments from Johnny Mnemonic, an animated segment from Ecco: The Tides of Time, a theatrical animation once used for TNT, and a visual ad for Fuji Television.
Segments from the first two Mind's Eye videos were used alongside clips from Imaginaria (another Miramar-produced CGI compilation video) on Canadian cable channel YTV's 1994-1996 "Short Circuitz" interstitials, primarily as filler back when the station was only required to run 8 minutes of commercials an hour. Independent superstation NTV (Newfoundland Television) adapted these videos into five "Computer Animated Art Festivals" in the 2000s alongside new post-production effects and pop music soundtracks, giving even more of a Mind Screw effect than before.
Please note that the series does not fall within the bounds of Western Animation since it features submissions from all over the world.
Tropes that appear in the film series include:
- Alien Sky: "Armageddon" in The Gate features one. Over one of the various worlds we see, one of them is in very close proximity to a Saturn-like gas giant which sports two sets of crossed rings.
- All There in the Manual: The plot of The Gate. The VHS box describes it as a sort of adventure following the end of the world. A robot from the future travels back in time in order to save the future from destruction, and it does this by restarting the universe. If you hadnt read the back of the box, this would probably have been lost on you due to the videos general lack of consistency.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: All four films feature nude humanoid figures, and not one of them has genitalia or even nipples.
- ... with three exceptions at the end of Beyond. Three male figures are seen with blank faces and full genitalia before combining to form an egg.
- The Blank: Shows up quite a bit throughout the series. They are notably featured in The Mind's Eye's "Technodance" as the "Aloi" sequences (which uses just a ring with three triangular "hairs" for a head). Anything constructed of blocks is quite likely to lack facial features. The humanoid figures are about a one-in-four chance of lacking a face, too.
- Book-Ends: The first film opens with an Astronomic Zoom towards Earth, starting with the Big Bang, and ends with an inversion of the trope.
- The third film starts with an eye opening, where the video then zooms into the iris to show the title, and ends by zooming out of the eye just before it closes.
- Brick Joke: The mallet from Odyssey's "Out of Step" shows up again before the credits.
- Camera Abuse: Beyond has a clip where miniature pterosaurs bump into a camera wandering through a dark world. The first two bounce off the lens, cracking it. The third shatters it and is subsequently cooked to the lens by an electric discharge.
- Odyssey features a segment shown from the perspective of a rover wandering through a prehistoric era. In the space of a few minutes, the rover is nearly stomped on, forced off of a cliff, caught by a pterosaur, nearly dropped into a volcano, and implied to have finally been destroyed by another pterosaur attacking it.
- Circling Birdies: In relation to the pterosaurs in Beyond mentioned above. Although nothing is seen, a subtle chatter blended with the resting music can be heard after the third pterosaur whacks the camera. Its composition invokes the idea that the pterosaur had a brief vision of birdies before it gets fried.
- Darker and Edgier: The Gate, in comparison to the rest of the series, features a lot more dark visuals, action, war, and an image of some massive, demonic lifeform looming over a planet. The River of Souls is especially jarring with its endless plain of human faces.
- Determinator: Both Richard Stranges character and the block from the Unstoppable sequence in Odyssey. Strange uses a large variety of traps and machines trying to keep the block from escaping. The block, on the other hand, is so determined to get away from him that it just smashes straight through everything.
- Drives Like Crazy: A particular set of scenes from The Gate sequence "Armageddon" follow a small shuttle-like vehicle attempting to navigate the city. Key word attempting. Unlike most of the other vehicles around it, it has an incredible swerve caused by its voluminous rear end, veers wildly across its own direction of travel, bounces against buildings and tunnels, and, after ignoring various signs indicating a closed tunnel, has an implicitly fatal head-on with a massive wall of metal. One scene also features the vehicle breaking suddenly for a large sign reading "止まれ" (Japanese for "stop") and being rear-ended by the camera.
- The camera does about as well, flying through oncoming traffic, bouncing off scenery, and rear-ending the above vehicle.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Volatile Planet in Odyssey shows a planet slowly heading in this direction while a spacecraft is trying to escape.
- Faceless Eye: Too Far in Beyond and Nuvogue in The Gate feature eyeballs living and behaving completely independent from a body. They are mostly found watching TV and come in different sizes ranging from adult eyes to teenage eyes moving out for the first time to dog eyes (which are still somehow able to enjoy a bone). While the whole idea of the minds eye is the video series main theme, these segments are more-or-less there to just be weird.
- Flying Car: Particularly popular when showing a futuristic city. Odyssey gives us the classic, no-lifting-surfaces-or-engines version. The Gate, however, with its more 20 Minutes into the Future approach depicts a number of shuttle-like flying vehicles with visible thrusters and tail fins.
- Historical-Domain Character: "Nuvogue" in The Gate uses images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and others as characters interacting with each other. Specifically, the images used are the presidents' portraits as they have been printed on American money, and they are put on top of basically whatever body the animators felt like giving them. George Washington has never looked so buff.
- Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: Only halfway down this page and finding descriptions that don't make sense? Guess what. It gets worse.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: Pops up throughout the series, notably in the form of The Minds Eyes chrome-plated dinosaurs and The Gates steel-clad parrot singers.
- Medium Blending: Despite the intention of showing off computer animations, precisely three segments feature real-life filming. Beyond's Afternoon Adventure is mostly a walkthrough of a forest with its animated components (a small bee and a larger hornet) set up to appear as if one is chasing the other. The Gate's Valley of the Minds Eye features an actor appearing for a few seconds inside a computer-generated building at two different points. Odyssey's Unstoppable features Richard Strange (who appeared as background characters from Batman (1989), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) interacting with a computer-generated security terminal.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Done in Odyssey. With a warehouse full of hammers! At the end of Out of Step, the music is interrupted by one hammer that has fallen out of sync with the others and instead is playing a loud Mexican-esque beat while having changed to a red mallet. The other hammers discontinue their rhythmic striking and stare at the mallet until the mallet stops and realizes that the others have taken exception to its individuality. It resumes the beat and changes back into a steel hammer to match the others. This returns at the end of Odyssey to show that the same hammer has earned this ire again. However, instead of syncing up, it begins playing its unique beat as if to show the others that it no longer gives a crap.
- No Plot? No Problem!: The hundreds of animators who submitted videos to the series didnt really coordinate their efforts a whole lot. Even within each sequence, not a lot of effort was put into forming a coherent story (with certain exceptions, such as Nothing But Love in Beyond which is a whole sequence submitted by a single studio). The Gate averted this with its overall plot of a robot restarting the world after it is destroyed, which takes the viewer from the future back to the beginning of the universe and through all of mankinds history up into a new future.
- Oh, Crap!: Surely what was going on in the mind of the flying predator insect as the camera holds on its face when its a out to crash into a hungry spider's web in "Afternoon Adventure" in Beyond.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: "Armageddon" in the first half, sung in the background during some of the darker and chaotic scenes. The CD features a translation of this, which is pretty much the horrors associated with Armageddon.
- Percussive Maintenance: One of the eyeball scenes in "Nuvogue" in The Gate. A pair of eyeballs' TV dies after they've been bouncing around on the remote, and the only way to fix it is for one eye to smack the side of the TV.
- Precision F-Strike: "Nuvogue", wherein the singer mutters about kicking Washington's ass for stealing his cigars. This is as vulgar as the whole series gets.
- Product Displacement: The Hawaiian Punch cans in Beyond segment "Too Far" have their labels replaced with labels reading "Too Far Juice".
- Pun-Based Title: Some of the animators gave these to their submissions.
- Recurring Element: From the very beginning, the animators have enjoyed using tunnels of various sorts to shove the camera through, whether they were made out of light or looked more like a cave.
- Rollercoaster Mine: Volatile Planet in Odyssey features one which travels through an active volcano. The bizarre nature of the segment is justified; the entire segment is a visual from an actual theme park ride.
- Rube Goldberg Device: "Nuvogue" from The Gate features one that, when a piece of paper is inserted into a slot in a box, the devices inside eventually cause a card to slide out through another slot.
- Shout-Out: Beyond segment Transformers.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Beyond jacks up the conventional scale by introducing two characters who have their skin colored like a zebra and a cheetah. It isnt evident whether this was meant to be their actual skin or if their fur just happened to be cut very short.
- The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: In a meta example, one segment of Too Far in Beyond features a man who is being physically assaulted by his TV with the implication that it is a character on the screen causing it.
- TV Head Robot: Odyssey has a number of segments depicting televisions on top of a humanoid body, although it isnt evident whether these are supposed to be robots or not. It doesnt help that the same segments also feature other objects serving as a head, including a maze and a birdcage containing a small human!
- Tyrannosaurus rex: The Minds Eye features these as chrome-plated beasts!
- Winged Humanoid: Pops up infrequently. One segment of Odyssey, titled "Flying Start", shows a bunch of people spontaneously sprouting wings to get ahead of a bridge that won't build itself fast enough.