Tales From the Loop is TV's First Series Based on an Artist's Paintings

Amazon's new sci-fi series was inspired by the work of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag.
  • Art imitates art in Tales From the Loop. (Photo: Amazon)
    Art imitates art in Tales From the Loop. (Photo: Amazon)

    Dropping today, Amazon’s new sci-fi series Tales From the Loop has the potential to be one of this year’s most talked about streaming releases. Described as Black Mirror meets Stranger Things, with some Twin Peaks mixed in for good measure, the series boasts a pedigreed creative team that includes Matt Reeves (writer/director of the upcoming Batman reboot The Batman), Nathaniel Halpern (Legion, Outcast ) and Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo, Never Let Me Go) as producers. Halpern also serves as showrunner, while Romanek directed the pilot. Pixar vet Andrew Stanton also directs, as does Jodie Foster. To top it off, the series boasts an ensemble cast that includes Paul Schneider, Jonathan Pryce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Sy, Duncan Joiner, Daniel Zolghadri, Nicole Law, and Jane Alexander.

    Unlike most television series, Tales From the Loop didn’t originate as a spec script or pitch, nor was it based on a best-selling novel, short story, or comic book. Instead, the series comes from a much more abstract source — the paintings of the Swedish artist, Simon Stålenhag.

    Image: Simon Stålenhag (Amazon)

    Stålenhag may not be a familiar name to most TV viewers, but the artist's profile has increased considerably over the past several years, ever since he first began posting his artwork online in the early 2010s. His paintings all share a similar mood and style, with Stålenhag mixing his own memories of growing up in Sweden with imagery inspired by sci-fi films he loved as a kid. The combination of those influences has resulted in a body of work that feels uniquely interconnected, and it has garnered Stålenhag a loyal following.

    While the new Amazon series is the highest-profile adaptation of Stålenhag's work to date, it isn't the first time the Swedish artist has seen his work adapted for other projects. A tabletop role-playing game based on his work was released in 2017, while that same year, the film rights to his third artbook, The Electric State, were bought by Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo, with IT director Andy Muschietti in talks to direct.

    The Amazon series is directly inspired by Stålenhag's 2014 narrative art book of the same name, as well as his 2016 follow-up Tales From the Flood. Both works feature artwork set in an alternate version of modern day, rural Sweden — one that is filled with a number of strange, technologically-advanced relics.

    Rebecca Hall in Tales From the Loop. (Amazon)

    Building on that material, Amazon's Tales From the Loop will follow the adventures of a group of people living above “The Loop,” a machine that was built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe. As a result of their proximity to the machine, each of the show’s characters begin to experience things they previously believed could only occur in science fiction stories. Unlike the Stålenhag paintings, the series will not be set in Sweden, but rather in an American town.

    Despite these differences, Stålenhag's original art books should still provide more than enough inspiration to deliver on the show's promise. Having acclaimed craftsmen like Mark Romanek, Nathaniel Halpern, and Matt Reeves involved in the creative process certainly won't hurt, eitherAlAlll .

    Tales From the Loop's eight-episode first season is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

    Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.

    TOPICS: Tales from the Loop, Amazon, Jonathan Pryce, Mark Romanek, Matt Reeves, Nathaniel Halpern, Rebecca Hall, Simon Stålenhag