The eclectic lineup of this year’s summit explores many different aspects of the animation and vfx industries, from behind-the-scenes tips on how to produce a successful international copro, to the nuts and bolts of creating content for VR, to informative talks with the directors and producers of this year’s feature and short films that are contenders for Academy Awards. Here is a list of some of the top industry professionals who were confirmed to appear on the panels at press time: Agnes Augustin, CEO/president, Shaw Rocket Fund Kyle Balda, director, Despicable Me 3 Christine Brendle, CEO, FUN Union Kobe Bryant, CEO, Kobe Inc. Lawson Deming, owner/vfx supervisor, Barnstorm VFX Mo Davoudian, creative director/CEO, Brain Zoo Studios Paul DeBenedittis, senior VP, programming, Disney Channels Worldwide Vanessa Chapman, managing director, VJC Media Pete Denomme, CEO/exec producer, Switch VFX & Switch Animation Joel Douek, composer, sound designer Ruth Fielding, producer/joint MD, Lupus Films Archita Ghosh, exec producer/partner, E*D Films Jorge Gutiérrez, director, Son of Jaguar Michaela Hart, animation exec, production specialist Michael Hefferon, president, Rainmaker & Mainframe Studios Guillaume Hellouin, TeamTO Max Howard, producer and animation consultant Kevin Tod Haug, vfx supervisor and designer Terry Kalagian, VP creative, Gaumont Animation Ken Katsumoto, EVP family entertainment, Lionsgate Entertainment Glen Keane, director, Dear Basketball Iryna Kostyuk, producer/creator/media expert Tom McGrath, director, The Boss Baby Peter McHugh, manager, The Gotham Group Chris McKay, director, The LEGO Batman Movie Alison Norrington, writer/producer/founder, storycentral Chris O’Reilly, co-founder/ ECD, Nexus Studios Sandra Rabins, producer/animation executive John Robson, managing director, WildBrain Adam Rumanek, founder, Aux Mode Richard Scott, CEO, Axis Studios David L. Simon, animation producer and executive Carlos Saldanha, director, Ferdinand David Soren, director, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Philippe Soutter, co-founder, PGS Irene Sparre, exec producer, Wil Film Mark Taylor, exec VP, physical production, DreamWorks Animation TV Toper Taylor, president, Network of One Nicolas Trout, co-head of animation/exec producer, Mikros Image Tom van Waveren, CEO/creative director, Cake Lin Zhang, CEO, DeZerlin Media
four licenses for its Storyboard Pro and Harmony software; second and third place winners received Imagination International sets from Copic Markers and digital subscriptions to Animation Magazine. The winners were: 1st Place – Priscilla Bojorge & Sarah Cierlak, Taro’s Quest 2nd Place – John Sanoff, Taxi Girl 3rd Place – Daniela Rodriguez, Linny
This year’s World Animation Celebration film festival judges included Stephen Chiodo, Rick Farmiloe, Anthea Kerou, Lee Lanier, Audu Paden, Sherie Pollack, Robb Pratt and Charles Solomon. The shorts competition screened some 150 films from 40 countries.
record in Hollywood.” A Longer Journey One of the qualities that makes Rainbow Crow stand out the in VR realm is its length. While the prologue piece that screened at
IThe stunning new Google Spotlight Stories VR shorts By Ellen Wolff
n 2016, when Google Spotlight Stories’ Pearl became the first VR piece to land an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short, many animators took notice. “After watching Patrick Osborne’s Pearl I did two things,” says Jorge Gutiérrez, director of the Golden Globe-nominated feature The Book of Life and the co-creator of Nickelodeon’s Emmy-winning series El Tigre. “First I cried, and then I said, ‘Can I watch it again, please?’ I’d connected on an emotional lev- el that I’d never felt before. If we can make people feel things, that is the best special effect. I knew I wanted to do one of these.”
Gutiérrez got his wish, completing his first VR piece for Google Spotlight Stories, Son of Jaguar, which puts viewers inside the POV of a Mexican wrestler. “When wrestlers put on a mask they become someone else. That’s what we do in VR. When you put the headset on, you become someone else. It also made me feel like a ghost, because I’m watching things that can’t interact. That led to the idea of a Mexican wrestler ghost who on the Day of the Dead comes down to visit his family. That’s where the inspiration came from.”
Gutiérrez tackled the project alongside Reel FX in North Hollywood, Calif., his collaborators on The Book of Life. Gutiérrez admits, “VR was a lot harder and crazier than I ever imagined. I was very skeptical of
Although the current virtual reality industry echoes the early days of computer animation, where a lot of time and energy was spent on developing the tools, finding investors has not been a problem for Penrose Studios founder and CEO Eugene Chung.
“The good news about being at Silicon Valley is the pervasive mentality that we’re here to help build the future,” says Chung, who served as head of film and media at Oculus before founding San Franciscobased Penrose two years ago. “We think that virtual reality is the next major computing platform. Over the last 60 years we’ve had five major computing platforms, including the mainframes of the 1960s, mini-computer a decade later, personal computer, desktop/ Internet, and now we live in the era of the mobile/ Internet. Each computing cycle has generated 10 times the number of users as the prior computer cycle. Goldman Sachs estimates that this is going to be a $23 billion to $182 billion industry within the coming years, so the opportunity set is very large.”
“Our mission is to define the next generation of human storytelling,” explains Chung. “We have this vision that we can create this next-generation media company powered by technology in a way that we haven’t seen since the advent of the moving picture, which was 120 years ago.”
Mysteries of the Deep Chung delivered his first VR short The Rose and I two years ago, which was followed by Allumette in 2016. This year, Penrose debuted the prologue for its third VR project, Arden’s Wake— a beautifully animated and technically dazzling piece about an inventor who lives with his daughter, Meena, in the middle of an ocean. There’s also a possible love interest and a strange deep-water beast, as well as a heart-breaking backstory.
“Arden’s Wake is, more so than anything, a huge adventure,” remarks Chung, who wrote and directed the stunning piece. “You journey from deep in the ocean to the edge of a postapocalyptic lighthouse. Then you follow this submarine and encounter some fantastical creatures at deep depths. As it progresses, you realize how incredible and expansive the world is. It’s the most ambitious project that we’ve ever done. It has more characters. For the first time, we have introduced dialogue. We’re pushing the boundaries of the artistic look of the animation and the sophistication of the storytelling. More and more of our work is being produced natively in VR using our native VR creation tools. That’s an exciting development. We have only showcased the prologue, but there are other parts of Arden’s Wake that will be created and released.”
Chung points out that traditional tools do not necessarily give a good sense of how things will look in virtual reality. “Maestro is a part of our broader tool suite. It’s our ability to review things inside of virtual reality and directly collaborate with our team members. We’ve done reviews where people are thousands of miles away and it feels as if they are sitting right next to you. Even if they are sitting right next to you, it’s far better to go into Maestro so you can specifically see what is going on in a virtual space. It has been a powerful tool for us.”
Virtual reality allows for the creation of expansive worlds such as the cloud city featured in Allumette or the immersive ocean of Arden’s Wake. “Allumette has this cloud city and that’s not something you can go to in reality,” notes Chung. “Watching a picture of it is different than if you can be in that world. That’s what virtual reality unlocks for you.” Immersion without
Distractions Another huge bonus point is that viewers do not get distracted answering text messages or hearing others in movie theaters. “VR experiences are so immersive that people get lost in them and time tends to shift,” Chung points out. “A great example is with Arden’s Wake. The prologue is over 15 minutes long, which is almost the same length as Allumette. But 90 percent of the people we have showed it to think that the prologue is between five to 10 minutes. Some people question if there’s going to be this attention apocalypse. This is an opportunity to go back to the roots of undistracted storytelling.”
Chung says Penrose avoids calling itself a VR company because the medium will continue to evolve, and it will be a blend of AR, mixed reality and virtual reality. “Some people call it XR, for whatever reason,” he mentions. “We have built for mixed reality and augmented reality applications. We have found that it’s a different process. There are some things that don’t translate because, as with theater and film, they are different mediums altogether.”
What is clear to Chung is that storytelling seems to be going full circle. “We started off in human history drawing cave paintings and telling stories around a campfire,” he notes. “Then we moved onto books and literature. Now we’re increasingly going back to a visual medium as being the basis of everything that we do to communicate. There are a lot of expectations on this industry. If you look at the fundamentals, it’s healthy. It’s up to all of us to build it together as a group and industry. It’s going to be fascinating.” To learn more, visit www.penrosestudios.com.