Disney’s second experimental VR short makes its world premiere at SIGGRAPH 2019.
After debuting their first experimental VR short film Cycles back during SIGGRAPH 2018, Walt Disney Animation Studios has returned to the annual computer graphics conference in Los Angeles, California for the world premiere of the latest VR short from their ongoing Short Circuit experimental program, a kite’s tale.
Available as part of an hour-long line-up of immersive shorts shown at the, including Baobab Studios Bonfire and Shadowmachine’s Kaiju Confidential —all of which shown at the conferences incredible 360-degree theater—a kite’s tale continues Disney’s trend of blending conventional, hand-drawn animation with cutting-edge CG, offering audiences a strangely nostalgic experience that’s equal parts cute and technologically impressive.
Directed by Bruce Wright, Effects Animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, a kite’s tale follows a rambunctious puppy kite who becomes tangled up in the affairs of a stuffy old dragon kite. Naturally, the dragon kite is far too busy being majestic to fool around with the young kite. Of course, this being Disney film, eventually, one thing leads to another—and what do you know–the two kites end up becoming the best of buds. It’s a classic Disney trope that, while predictable, lends itself well to the art style and pacing of the short film.
Wright and his team were pragmatic and surgical in their implementation of hand-drawn animation with CG technology, and the results speak for themselves. For instance, the young kite features a hand-drawn puppy that bounces around the confines of its kite with endless energy; meanwhile, the veteran dragon kite—animated entirely in CG–flows steadily with grace. Every facet of the kites plays a factor throughout the animation, such as the tail of the puppy kite, which wags energetically when the young pooch becomes excited.
Similar to Cycles, a kite’s tale also lacks any spoken dialogue, choosing instead to focus on physical humor in a style closer to that of Tom & Jerry; an intentional decision according to the director.
“I think there’s something very child-like about an animated short if it doesn’t use dialogue, because I think it speaks to the whole world,” said Wright during an interview with VRScout. “I feel like VR is a natural storytelling medium, but because it’s new people think of it as being very technological, and so I kind of wanted to strip away that feeling of technology and go right to something that hopefully you feel nostalgic for.”
That’s arguably what impressed me the most about a kite’s tale: its ability to deliver a genuine sense of nostalgia. It feels as though you’re watching a classic animation, despite the fact you’re viewing the action on a piece of cutting-edge technology. Overall the biggest negative I found was in the run-time. Just as I found myself falling for the characters, the credits had already begun to role, leaving me desperate for more.
Now in its second year, Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Circuit experimental program is quickly becoming one of the most impactful VR filmmaking programs currently in circulation.
Feature Image Credit: VRScout