Oculus Story Studios’ Henry, the tale of a lovable, hard to hug hedgehog and his search for friendship, has walked away with the first ever Emmy awarded to a virtual reality film.
I wrote recently that the traditional motion picture entertainment industry seemed to be gravitating towards immersive media, keen to explore creative and financial possibilities, and now one of the earliest VR films has itself become recognised by that industry, awarded as “Outstanding Original Interactive Program.”
If you own an Oculus Rift consumer headset, it’s unlikely you’ll have missed Henry, the first film made specifically for virtual reality to come out of Oculus Story Studios – itself set up to explore the creative possibilities VR might afford. It’s the story of the titular hedgehog with a desperate desire for friendship, but whose less than cuddly exterior foils his attempts to do so.
Henry’s a delightful experience, channelling as it does the charm present in many of Pixar’s trailblazing CG animated features, but the film also represents a milestone in the world of VR entertainment. Henry represents an early attempt at both extending and in some cases completely re-inventing the language of linear visual storytelling, inherited TV and movies to cope with, and take advantage of, the ‘look anywhere’ challenges virtual reality presents. This is something that the OSS team explored in depth in their presentation at last year’s Oculus Connect conference. You can watch it below, and it’s highly recommended to anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.
So, after all of that pioneering work, predictably, the Oculus Story Studio team are over the moon. “When we set out to make Henry, it was a step into the unknown world of making an emotional VR movie,” says Ramiro Lopez Dau, director of Henry, “While we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, we were excited about the possibilities. We never anticipated that one of our first projects would be given such a distinction and this recognition is not only a testament to our team’s creative and technical achievements, but also a validation for the VR storytelling community as a whole. While Henry is just one step in the long journey ahead, we hope this moment inspires storytellers to bring their ideas to this new medium and help shape the future of VR storytelling.”
Oculus Story Studios is continuing on it’s experimental journey into VR film-making. It’s already released LOST, and will soon release Dear Angelica, a VR film previewed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and with an altogether different feel to Henry.
Here’s hoping Henry‘s Emmy win inspires more of those Hollywood executives and creatives to seek out and invest in virtual reality as a narrative platform. In the mean time, Henry is available on the Oculus Store for free.