New Trailer For Animated Virtual Reality Short Henry

And the Oculus Story Studio team talk about the project

New Trailer For Animated Virtual Reality Short Henry

by James White |
Published on

If Virtual Reality – long the frustrated bridesmaid of how we experience movies, TV and other media – is ever to realise its full potential, it has to evolve and adapt, and most importantly, reach the public on a much wider scale than it has before. The Oculus team, which is looking to bring VR headsets to the world, has decided to push into another frontier: storytelling using the technology. To that end, they've developed and made a short film called Henry. You can catch the trailer below.

Henry is the second short to come from Oculus' Story Studio, and is designed to push the boundaries for VR films. Directed by Pixar veteran Ramiro Lopez Dau, it’s the story of a hedgehog spurned by everyone around him because of his painful habit of trying to hug everyone. He makes a birthday wish for some friends and... Well, that would be spoiling it.

According to Dau, who worked with fellow former Pixarian Saschka Unseld (he directed short The Blue Umbrella), it’s a chance to try something new. “The whole idea behind Henry was to see how empathy for a character would work in VR, and for me to see how people connect with him and feel for him, that was my whole purpose," Dau explains. "We wanted to see if VR was a storytelling tool we could use to tell emotion.”

Empire was given a chance to interact with the short, which is narrated by Elijah Wood, and Henry himself is, indeed, pretty loveable. But he was a challenge to bring to life. “It's different,” Dau says of the process. “You have to forget all you know and come up with new processes to make it happen. We started planning Henry out as a traditional animated short, but you have to make decisions based on what you see in VR, and not on traditional storyboards or animatics. We learned that you have to jump into VR as soon as possible in the process, because it feels different to see something on the screen as it does to see it in VR. The timing and pacing has to be much slower so you get all the story beats across.”

Everyone at Story Studio admits that this whole idea of proper, original, emotional stories is still in its infancy – think of Henry as analogous to the early days of talkies in cinema – but that they’re hoping it’ll evolve as more people embrace the tools and create new ones. “I think VR is here to stay,” says Dau. “It's a matter of time, but it's a technology that is incredible. It's not going anywhere! Once every one starts playing with it, everyone will realise the potential it has. We're just at the very beginning, just trying the first little steps on that path, but the potential is massive, and we don't even know about all of it yet, we just need to keep exploring, step by step. Not only us, but others - the mission is to build a community, to inspire other filmmakers. We all need to learn and share the tricks.”

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