Back in 2016, director Jon Favreau, in association with immersive studio Wevr, released the Gnomes & Goblins preview, a demo of an (at the time) ambitious VR film project. While it was well received, it lay nearly forgotten as the years passed with no sign of a full release. Hope has been reignited thanks to a recently revamped website teasing that project is “coming soon.”
A testament to how quickly VR is moving; back in 2016, the idea that Jon Favreau (the director behind The Jungle Book (2016), Iron Man 1 (2008) & Iron Man 2 (2010), among others) was working on a VR film was pretty big news. An original story complete with immersive interactivity, Gnomes & Goblins seemed quite promising in its five minute preview which was released on Steam. Unfortunately the project’s intrigue slowly faded from memory as years passed with no indication that it was headed for a full release.
That all changed in the last week when Wevr, the immersive studio producing the project along with MWM, offered up a sly tweet to the project’s official website which has been completely revamped, now prominently featuring “coming soon” text at the top.
It’s likely no coincidence that this would happen now—shortly after the release of Favreau’s latest directorial project, The Lion King (2019), which used a purportedly groundbreaking virtual reality production process which Favreau himself likened to a “multiplayer filmmaking game” in a recent interview. And with the excitement surrounding new headsets like Quest, Rift S, and Index, it seems like an opportune time to revive the project.
While we still don’t know when it will launch, the revamped Gnomes & Goblins website now seems to have a firmer idea of what the VR film will actually be. While the original version of the site waxed about the experimental nature of the project—and rightly so, as the merger of cinematic narrative and interactivity in VR was still just barely being probed in 2016—the new version of the site quite concisely describes the experience as a “story driven game set in an enchanted world of gnomes and goblins with you as the protagonist” [our emphasis].
Indeed, since the debut of the Gnomes & Goblins preview in 2016, a handful of successful examples blending strong narrative with interactivity in VR have come to fruition with projects like The Invisible Hours (2017), The Great C (2018), and Star Wars: Vader Immortal (2019). Granted, with a clearer picture of the language of VR storytelling, Favreau and his collaborators are now faced with modern expectations; to what extent Gnomes & Goblins has or hasn’t been reworked to fit in today’s VR landscape won’t be clear until its launch, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.