Leading independent interactive studio takes home its ninth Emmy; latest award, for immersive VR portrayal of Eastern European legend, adds to project’s previous Emmy wins for directing and character design.
Baobab Studios’ immersive VR experience, Baba Yaga, has just been awarded the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Interactive Media for a Daytime Program today by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). The win brings the studios’ total Emmy tally to nine; it’s the third Emmy for the project, coming on the heels of recent wins for Outstanding Directing team for Animated Program (Eric Darnell, director, Mathias Chelebourg, co-director) and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for Character Design (Kal Athannossov).
“It was already such an honor and thrill for Baba Yaga to be awarded Emmys for both character design and direction,” said the project’s writer/director and Baobab Studios Chief Creative Officer, Eric Darnell. “And now, to be honored with the award for best interactive is truly spectacular and a reflection of the team's monumental efforts to give the audience the opportunity to be the hero of their own story.”
Executive producer Jennifer Hudson added, “What an incredible honor it is to win my first Emmy Award! And for it to happen on such a uniquely special and forward-thinking project as a producer makes it all the more special. I am so grateful to have worked alongside an extraordinary team of innovative thinkers and creative minds to help bring the world of Baba Yaga to interactive platforms for everyone to enjoy. A huge thank you to the Television Academy, Eric Darnell, Mathias Chelebourg, the AMAZING cast, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee, Larry Cutler, and my entire Baobab Studios family!”
Baobab Studios Chief Executive Officer and executive producer Maureen Fan shared, “On behalf of everyone at Baobab, I am thrilled to celebrate our ninth Emmy win with this latest award for Baba Yaga. I'm so proud of our lean, mean indie crew who have put such artistry into all our projects over the past five years. It's so rewarding to have our characters and stories transcend their mediums to be recognized in both traditional 2D and interactive formats.”
Directed and written by Darnell (Madagascar franchise, Antz) and co-directed by Mathias Chelebourg, Baba Yaga 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). The project made its world premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. The VR version is currently available exclusively on Oculus Quest.
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. Baba Yaga 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 Baba Yaga, you, the viewer, are 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.
Founded by Fan, Darnell, and Larry Cutler in 2015, the studio has now won nine 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. Their IP is currently being adapted into books (MacMillan, Penguin Random House), film (Roth/Kirsch, Disney), original series with the premium streamers, and games. Their next release will be Namoo, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Erick Oh (Opera).
Source: Baobab Studios
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.