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Baobab Studios’ ‘Baba Yaga’ Now Available on Oculus Quest

Leading interactive studio’s latest VR experience is released today; first-ever live virtual reality red carpet premiere for the short was the ultimate socially distanced event, with attendees using Oculus Quest headsets to interact in real-time as avatars.

To support today’s release on Oculus Quest, Baobab Studios celebrated the North American premiere of its latest immersive VR experience, Baba Yaga, with a first-ever, live, virtual reality red carpet event hosted by Baobab and the Tribeca Film Festival. Directed and written by Baobab Studios co-founder Eric Darnell (Madagascar franchise, Antz) and co-directed by Mathias Chelebourg, the immersive VR experience stars an all-female cast: Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader, Ammonite), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Ophelia), Oscar and three-time Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, and the upcoming Aretha Franklin biopic Respect), and three-time Golden Globe winner and seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close (The Wife, Albert Nobbs).

Guests in different time zones around the world attended Hollywood’s ultimate socially distanced premiere via Oculus Quest headsets and interacted with each other in real-time as avatars within the animated VR world created for the film. Baba Yaga is available exclusively on Oculus Quest starting today, January 14, 2021.

Baba Yaga is a contemporary portrayal of the Eastern European legend breathed to life with illustrative 2D pop-up animation, as well as hand-drawn and stop-motion styles, creating a modern visual language for VR inspired by classic animation. The VR immersive experience blends theater, cinema, interactivity, AI, and animation into a unique experience that explores themes of empowerment and environmentalism. With multiple endings, each play-through is different from the last.  The VR experience is designed to play either with hand-held Touch controllers or by utilizing Hand Tracking on the Oculus Quest. This versatility provides a new level of immersive, personalized interaction throughout the story.

In addition to members of the all-star female cast, attendees included Baobab Studios’ co-founder and CEO/executive producer Maureen Fan, co-founder and CTO/executive producer Larry Cutler, head of content/executive producer Kane Lee, and head of product and marketing David Kahn. The event was co-hosted by Oscar-winning director Glen Keane (Dear Basketball, Over the Moon), as well as Tribeca Film Festival vice president, film & immersive, Loren Hammonds. The premiere also featured a special pre-recorded video message from Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and the Tribeca Film Festival, offering her praise for the film and Baobab Studios.  The Baba Yaga VR premiere was produced by Baobab Studios in collaboration with Leila Amirsadeghi of MESH.

In Baba Yaga, you, the viewer is invited into a haunting fairytale world completely reimagined where your choices determine the ending of this story of love, fortitude, and magic. Sometimes a force for evil, sometimes a force for good, the enigmatic witch Baba Yaga (Winslet) uses her powers to stop the villagers whose settlement encroaches upon her enchanted Forest (Hudson). You are Sacha, the eldest and heir to the village throne, and sister to the young and willful Magda (Ridley). When your mother, the Village Chief (Close), falls deathly ill, it is up to you and Magda to do the unthinkable—enter the forbidden rainforest, uncover its hidden mysteries, and get the cure from Baba Yaga. Ultimately, every decision Sacha makes matters… perhaps even whether humanity and nature can live in balance.

Baobab Studios partnered with the United Nations on its climate change and sustainability initiative, creating a Baba Yaga campaign for the UN ActNow app to engage and educate users on ways to act in safeguarding Earth’s natural resources. To further emphasize reforestation awareness, Baobab and Conservation International are co-sponsoring a final community challenge to be featured in the app this month, reinforced by a donation for the nonprofit’s Protect an Acre initiative.

Founded by Fan, Darnell, and Cutler in 2015, the studio has won six Emmy Awards; prior to Baba Yaga, they released five successful, increasingly innovative immersive projects - Asteroids!, Invasion!, Jack, Crow: The Legend, and Bonfire – that starred such diverse talents as John Legend, Oprah, Constance Wu, Diego Luna, Liza Koshy, Tye Sheridan, Elizabeth Banks, Ethan Hawke, Lupita Nyong'o, and Ali Wong.

Source: Baobab Studios

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.