Pixar’s First VR Experience ‘Coco VR’ is Astounding, Raising the Bar on VR Movie Tie-ins


Coco VR, Pixar’s first-ever VR experience, has a pretty specific goal in mind; getting you to see the film in theaters when it opens next week. That’s at least the mindset I had before putting on my Rift, a result of a malaise that comes from playing nearly every ‘brand engagement’ tie-in ever produced for VR (they’re free after all). Popping into the experience and putting me face-to-face with the main character Miguel, it became clear that Coco VR was going to be different.

Initially teased at Oculus Connect 4Coco VR can be experienced in either single or multiplayer mode, the later of which lets you pick up to 3 other players from your Oculus friends list.

image courtesy Disney-Pixar

Entering the experience, you’re transported to the house of twelve year-old Miguel. Standing in front of the family’s ofrenda, Miguel explains the candle-lit altar commemorates his passed family members. Called away by his mom to help with dinner, you drift off into a dreamlike state, led by an infectiously cute alebrije, or a mythical creature central to Mexican folk art. This was the moment when it dawned on me that Pixar had effectively created one of the best-looking VR experiences to date, movie tie-in or otherwise.

Dropped in the Tienda de Ropa (clothing store) where Ceci, a motherly skeleton, gives you free rein to try on a few different outfits, I start customizing my avatar. Placing a pair of pants and a stripped shirt on a tiny mannequin, I see the clothes appear on me in the mirror.

image courtesy Disney-Pixar

Besides locomotion and object interaction, the game’s instructions aren’t thrown in your face, encouraging exploration instead of forcing you to complete objectives. Rustling through a random drawer, I find a small map and a checklist of things to do and explore.

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The film’s otherworldly ‘Land of the Dead’, populated with a cast of skeleton characters decorated in the style of the traditional Mexican holiday Día de Muertos, is ridiculously charming.

[gfycat data_id=”PastBarrenFieldmouse”]

Teleporting around the main Plaza, you can do a number of activities, probably the least interesting of which is to watch the movie’s trailer at the open-air cinema, a near-constant focal point in these sorts of experiences. The meat of the experience is in the other activities, all of them well refined exemplars. You can go on a Disney-style ride around the village, travel up an outdoor elevator, take selfies with silly hats and mustaches, listen to a skeleton band perform music, and even dance around on stage yourself – replete with a crowd of adoring fans that clap and mimic your movements. My favorite was the Estudio de Arte, an art studio jam-packed with concept art from the film as well as other works. Buttons placed in front of the studio’s sculptures, paintings and sketches activate an explanation behind each work, and even teach you a little about the tradition behind the calaca, the skeleton figures featured in Día de Muertos.

obligatory selfie

Pixar’s Coco VR could have easily been just a good-looking 5 minute experience, or even a 360 video (groan), but the company has clearly invested the time in understanding the medium for what it is: interactive, explorable, social, and shareable.

According to an Oculus blogpost, the team behind the actual film worked closely with their VR counterparts to create assets and animations that stayed true to the movie. Magnopus, the team behind Blade Runner 2049: Memory Lab, brought the art to life in VR, adding social and interactive layers. Oculus collaborated with both teams, providing creative and technical feedback from early development through to completion.

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image courtesy Disney-Pixar

And this likely isn’t the last we’ve seen from Pixar either. According to Disney-Pixar’s Coco VR Producer and Academy Award-winner Marc Sondheimer, “VR is the natural next step in our evolution, letting people experience these worlds in living color.” We can’t wait to see what’s next.

You can download Coco VR for Rift here. A version for Gear VR is slated to launch November 22nd.

And yes, you can also play in Spanish. ¡Qué suerte!

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • CocoLoco

    What’s the point of making it hardware exclusive when VR audience is already small to begin with? Most people can’t experience it. I can’t understand these companies…


      The point is to sell hardware. Somebody has to pay to have these experiences produced. It this case, it was Oculus. I suppose if Disney/Pixar had financed it, it would have been released for other hardware as well.

    • Downvote King

      How would the audience grow without good content?

    • Walextheone

      What? Just revive it if you sit on vive man

      • NooYawker

        Oculus won’t let you download this and some others if you have a vive.
        It says you have to setup your touch controller first. And if you don’t
        have an oculus you can’t set it up.

    • VR Geek

      This exlusiveness damages VR adoption.

  • Lucidfeuer

    It’s all about that backdrop, that what’s I want to see more of in VR, with the right scales and warps, that’s why I want Bioshock Infinite to be VR implemented so bad.

    • Matt Clark

      Yup… would be incredible. Already is decent on Vorpx (something I can’t say for other Vorpx titles.) But the game would be outstanding… perhaps the best VR game aesthetically, if it had native support. The style of the game lends itself perfectly for VR. Here’s to hoping..

      • DougP

        Re: Bioshock Infinite
        Agree completely. The visual style & setting would be amazing to experience in VR.

  • Foreign Devil

    haven’t tried this but the Blade Runner tie in experience was pretty cool.

  • chuan_l

    — Pixar does ” Grim Fandango “

  • Bundy

    Anyone else having trouble moving around? I can’t even teleport to the mirror.

  • DougP

    Re: More *exclusive* content?

    Ok. That helped make my mind up. Will boycott watching this one in the theatre now.