Baobab Studios Spotlight

“Our mission: Inspire you to dream by bringing out your sense of wonder. We make YOU matter. We will immerse you in fantastical worlds, introduce you to characters to fall in love with, and let you interact with these characters.” -Baobab Studios
For 2021, Beyond Reality is pleased to give a spotlight to the works of Baobab Studios, a leading interactive animation studio. Visitors of Beyond Reality will be able to view two films that were introduced in 2019 and three new films invited this year.
Founded in 2015, Baobab Studios has been redefining the methods of production and expression of interactive content through various projects. Ethan Hawke’s voice acting work in Invasion! and Asteroids! have both won Emmy awards and have provided inspiration for many VR animation writers.
JACK VR, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2018, is a landmark work in the immersive theater format. Using the motif of the well-known Jack and the Beanstalk, this project utilized real actors equipped with motion capture sensors in order to perform various animated characters in real time. The audience becomes “Jack,” the protagonist, and develops the story while interacting with a real actor playing an animated character. It’s just a pity that the audience members themselves could not experience the enchanting experience of becoming animated characters. Due to the preparation of stage equipment and actors for each session, doing this within a reasonable budget was unfeasible. However, by becoming Jack in this work, one cannot help but be sure of the continuing future of immersive content. It was also a great influence to many immersive theater projects made afterwards.
Crow: The Legend and Bonfire, which were both shown in Beyond Reality in 2019, are both the works of director Eric Darnell, the writer and director of the feature-length animation Madagascar. The Crow is a story inspired by a Native American legend, and is voiced by John Legend, who also sings the original score, “When You Can Fly”, which has won an Emmy as well.
Bonfire was released on Facebook’s innovative VR headset, the Oculus Quest, and was praised by critics for being the first animation to seamlessly design interactivity in a narrative work. It won Siggraph's first Immersive Award and won Best Picture at the Sandbox Immersive Festival.
This year, more new films will be coming to the audience. They include Paper Birds, produced by 3DAR from Argentina and Eric Darnell, creator of one of VR animations top hits Gloomy Eyes, Erick Oh’s Namoo, which was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and Baba Yaga, which debuted at last year’s Venice Film Festival with two endings. Audience members can expect to be delighted by these immersive works, as they each bring in their own unique aesthetic and method of storytelling.
Baobab has been succeeding in their mission thus far. We hope this will be an opportunity to fully enjoy the new world of animation they are pioneering.
Jay KIM XR Curator, Beyond Reality Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN)