Virtual Reality Storyteller Behind “INVASION!” Also Broadens C-Suite, Advisory Board
Baobab Studios, creator of some cutting-edge VR (virtual reality) animation entertainment, has announces the close of $25 Million in Series B funding, backed by prestigious and powerful investors in film and technology, including several returning for a second round of investment. This brings total funding to date to $31 Million.
Funding is being led by Horizons Ventures with Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners (backed by TPG and CAA), China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners. They join the original investors, Comcast Ventures, HTC and Samsung. This new round of funding will be used to develop more animated VR movies and grow Baobab on a global scale.
Along with the new funding, Baobab is expanding its executive team. Larry Cutler joins as chief technology officer (CTO), bringing deep technical expertise in animation and development. He was Pixar’s technical director for Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., and then became global head of character technology for DreamWorks Animation. Cutler also judges for the Academy Awards’ Technical Achievement Awards, and is co-founder of DigiPro.
Baobab also has appointed Chris Milk, the well-known founder and CEO of Within, a premier destination for story-based VR content, to round out their deeply creative, influential advisory board. Milk has a long history of creating and inventing innovative products, winning multiple industry awards. His work tests the frontiers of interactive technology, including using VR as a canvas for storytelling.
Baobab Studios has launched “INVASION!” Episode One, an interactive animated VR short narrated by actorEthan Hawke. The film is a top-featured download in major digital storefronts and has received substantial critical acclaim right out of the gate, drawing accolades from film festivals globally. A “First Look” experience recently launched for “ASTEROIDS!,” the second installment in the “INVASION!” series, with the full episode scheduled for release in 2017.
“I’m excited to invest again seeing Baobab Studios has completed an already stellar team of ex-Zynga executive Maureen Fan, master storyteller Eric Darnell and narrative technology veteran, Larry Cutler. This cast is set to define the grammar of storytelling and experiences in VR,” explains Phil Chen, previously the founder of VIVE and now at Horizons Ventures to explore VR/AR. Phil Chen continues, “Baobab Studios is the pioneer of VR storytelling and technology, and their traction and reception by partners, audiences and tastemakers has been phenomenal.”
Baobab Studios was founded by Eric Darnell, Chief Creative Officer, and Maureen Fan, CEO, in 2015. Darnell is best known for his director and screenwriter talents on all four films in the DreamWorks Madagascar franchise. Fan has held leadership roles in film, gaming, and the web, and most recently as vice president of games at Zynga where she oversaw three studios, including the FarmVille sequels.
“We are on 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.”
“So far we’ve seen record downloads of “INVASION!” by VR users, and our investors see the promise of this type of entertainment,” explains Maureen Fan, CEO, co-founder, Baobab Studios. “The only thing better than launching a new product in an innovative industry is having amazing validation from partners and consumers.”