Dear Angelica and the Storytelling Power of VR
The Sundance winning VR movie, Dear Angelica, blew our socks off… Not only was it visually stunning— the story made one of the members of our team cry. But it’s not that big of a surprise, considering the short was directed by legendary Pixar artist, Saschka Unseld.
When you press play, you hear the thoughts of a young woman named Jessica, who writes letters to her mother Angelica. We quickly learn that Angelica has passed. And a heartbreaking story about her exciting roles as a film actress follows.
We pass from film memory to film memory—seeing Angelica as an astronaut, a warrior fighting a dragon, and much more. And every scene is conjured with loose animation, almost resembling the haziness of a dreamscape.
Contrary to many VR projects, Dear Angelica completely abandons realism. And the vibe really works for the film. Nothing in the experience looks like you should interact with it. In simplest terms, the short is a good story accompanied by great voice acting, a great soundtrack, and beautiful 360 degree art. From a graphical standpoint, Dear Angelica was relatively simple, perhaps mirroring some of the earliest 2D cartoons.
The “virtual” fantasy evokes a very real sense of melancholy. And it brings you back to childhood—where the memories of parents are romanticized and reality is often indistinguishable from fiction.
Interestingly, the short VR film is co-produced by Oculus Story Studio—certainly a play from Facebook to showcase the powerful storytelling capabilities from the Rift, the Go, and the upcoming Quest. Oculus Story Studio managed to pull off something beautiful, despite experimenting with an art form that was largely uncharted.
What’s most important about this story is that Sundance, one of the biggest film festivals in the world, now seriously considers VR a worthy art form. Other festivals will almost certainly follow suit in order to keep up with a main competitor. We expect Dear Angelica to be just the first of many animated VR experiences as content creators master the power of VR.
VR offers a new avenue for filmmakers and animators alike, and it looks like studios, YouTube creators, and even larger businesses are following suit.