Baobab Studios Raises $25 Million for VR Animated Storytelling

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One of the biggest challenges in virtual reality is the creation of content that the user can engage with while following a narrative that allows for compelling storytelling.

Of the many studios stepping up to the plate, Baobab Studios have proven to be a key player with the closing of a $25 million Series B led by Horizons Ventures with Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners, China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners also participating. The investors join Comcast Ventures, HTC, and Samsung to bring the company’s total funding to $31 million.

The Redwood City, Calif.-based startup co-founder and CEO Maureen Fan told TechCrunch that “much of the startup’s success has been earned because of continued traction on nascent virtual reality platforms alongside an ingrained focus on storytelling that eases many of Hollywood’s fears about the VR platform.”

“We are at the cusp of a storytelling revolution with this medium, and VR gives filmmakers the opportunity to develop immersive experiences and take audiences into the story like never before”

Fan and her partner Eric Darnell are veterans in gaming, animation, and story creation. Fan was vice president of games at Zynga and was part of the production team for the 2015 Oscar-nominated animation short The Dam Keeper. Darnell comes from DreamWorks Animation, where he directed such movies as the Madagascar franchise and Antz, and worked as a story artist and lyricist on Shrek. The team also includes experts in animation, production, and computer vision from DreamWorks, Pixar, and Lucasfilm.

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“We are at the cusp of a storytelling revolution with this medium, and VR gives filmmakers the opportunity to develop immersive experiences and take audiences into the story like never before,” says Mike Dunn, President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Fox Innovation Lab. “Baobab Studios is an innovator in this space, and we look forward to working with them.”

Presented at renowned movie festivals like the Tribeca Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and Cannes Film Festival, the startup’s short Invasion! gathered good reviews and led to further headlines last month when it was announced that it would be turned into a feature-length animated film by Hollywood production studio Roth Kirschenbaum.

Asteroids!, the second installment of Invasion!, is scheduled for release in 2017.