Baobab Studios: 5 Years in Animation
It was over five years ago when Maureen Fan, Larry Cutler, and I decided to take a leap into the unknown world of immersive storytelling and started Baobab Studios. It was a great feeling to be a part of our little start-up. It reminded me of my early days in computer animation in the ’90s at Pacific Data Images. And just as it was back then, none of us at Baobab knew where our journey would take us.
We’ve made so many discoveries since. The most profound (and, in retrospect, the most obvious) is that VR has a superpower: immersion. Because of this superpower, this new medium can transport us anywhere, encourage us to suspend their disbelief, allow us to participate in the story, make our dreams a reality, and make us feel like we matter.
Roger Ebert called cinema an “empathy machine”. As its own unique medium, VR, too, can elicit viewer empathy. But it can go to an even higher level of engagement by inspiring the audience to take meaningful action because of the empathy they feel. In other words, VR can be a “compassion machine”. The tangible worlds and living, breathing characters that our artists create are what allow viewers to let go and become a part of the story—to actively choose to be compassionate.
And now, on our five-year anniversary, it is an honor to share some of the work from our new book, “The Art of Baobab Studios”. I am so proud of what our small team has been able to accomplish over this period. We want the audience to feel that they can literally reach out and touch these worlds—from the fur of Chloe the bunny, to the organic machinery of Mac and Cheez’s spaceship, the dithered forest and heavens of Crow, the swamps of Jack, the graphical alien forest in Bonfire, and the theatrical sets of Baba Yaga. Many times the artists and engineers thought it impossible to achieve this level of artistry in a real-time game engine, but time after time, they achieved the impossible. And so Baobab Studios has won an Emmy Award for Best Interactive Media for every qualifying project the studio has created, and. Our piece Crow: The Legend, featuring John Legend, also won a second Emmy for Production Design, a third for Character Design, and a fourth for Directing.
Of course, we must pump all of the required ones and zeroes that generate our imagery through a pretty tiny pipe to render in real-time on a mobile VR headset. Yet the production design in Baobab’s work is often lush and organic and the animation complex and nuanced; something only possible because of the joint efforts of our graphic-artists and engineer-artists to embrace the value of close collaboration.
Thank you, team! It’s been such an honor to share our pioneering years with you. I am excited as we dive forward into even more of the unknown.
The Art of Baobab Studios
Willie Real – Character Designer
Jack Pt. One
Crow: The Legend
Elena & Olivia Ceballos – Concept Artists
Ken Pak – Concept Artist
Eusong Lee – Art Director
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