Jennifer Hudson and Daisy Ridley Jump into AltspaceVR to Promote Baba Yaga.
Baobab Studios hosted a virtual premier in AltSpaceVR for the launch of their latest adventure Baba Yaga on the Oculus Store. The virtual red carpet event immersed attendees in a the VR films fantastical world where they were able to step into the story and even meet the stars.
On hand for the virtual premier were two of Baba Yaga’s stars, Jennifer Hudson (Oscar-winner and Executive Director of Baba Yaga) who plays the role of several trees in an enchanted forest, and Daisy Ridley (Star Wars sequel trilogy) who plays the brash and fearless Magna. While in VR, the two mingled with attendees, participated in a live Q&A, and even took photos with fans.
Joining them in AltspaceVR was director/writer/co-founder of Baobab Studios Eric Darnell, co-director Mathias Chelebourg, Baobab co-founder and CEO/Executive Producer Maureen Fan, co-founder and CTO/Executive Producer Larry Cutler, Head of Content/Executive Producer Kane Lee, and Head of Product and Marketing David Kahn. Also in attendance was Oscar-winning director Glen Keane who greeted people as they entered the virtual space and served a moderator for the Q&A.
Designed to look and feel like a real-life red carpet event, complete with photo ops and live interviews, organizers were able to take advantage of the unlimited possibilities that come when utilizing VR environments. Lining the perimeter of the virtual space were both 2D images and 3D models of characters from Baba Yaga. Attendees were able to walk around certain parts of the story and explore an enchanted forest. At one point during the event, Ridley—while mingling with attendees—moved her avatar next to a full digital 3D version of her character for a spontaneous photo op.
At the start of the event, organizers played a pre-recorded video message from co-founder and CEO of Tribeca Enterprises and the Tribeca Film Festival, Jane Rosenthal. She took the time to not only celebrate the launch of Baba Yaga on the Oculus Store, but to also praise the hard work being done by the people at Baobab Studios, and talk about how VR is changing entertainment. The live VR premiere was produced in collaboration with Leila Amirsadeghi of MESH.
The decision to opt for a virtual premier was because of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions have made it very difficult to get the actors, directors, and people from the production team into a single location. Using AltspaceVR eliminates those boundaries while keeping attendees safe. Maureen Fan told attendees that the entertainment industry had to “innovate a new way to do a premier.” Both Hudson (who was in Chicago) and Ridley (who was London) addressed this during the Q&A, with Ridley saying, “I’ve been holed up for a year, so this is the first party I’ve been to in a year and it’s great.”
Baba Yaga is a great adventure but it’s also a story that explores climate change and sustainability through the eyes of two adventurous young girls, Magna (Ridley) and her sister (played by you). It’s an adaptation of a Slavic folklore where two girls must head into an enchanted forest in search of a witch named Baba Yaga (Kate Winslet). She possesses a cure that can be used to heal your ailing mother (Glenn Close), but be warned, your decisions matter and could even impact the balance of humanity and nature. During your travels you meet tree spirits (each played by Hudson) who tease you and Magna throughout your travels.
The story is visually beautiful, bringing together animation, conventional film, and theater in a way that’s completely unique to other VR animations; there is real meaning behind Baba Yaga.
Baobab Studios, winner of multiple Emmy and Annie Awards, has crafted a wonderful immersive experience with Baba Yaga. “We wanted to make you the main character and let you make different choices that have huge consequences at the end,” said Fan during the virtual Q&A, adding, “For every film project, we choose something that’s really difficult but also more creative.”
Because of the environmental themes featured throughout the story, Baobab Studios has partnered with the United Nations ActNow program to create a Baba Yaga campaign focused on promoting individual climate action.
“Just like in Baba Yaga, every choice we make matters,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming on an official UN page. “Our daily actions and behaviors cumulatively have a big impact on the health of the planet. ActNow aims to empower people to be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Baobab’s creative power will help us engage even wider global audiences at this crucial moment in time.”
To get the word out, Baba Yaga was featured on the UN’s mobile app developed by AWorld. Baobab has also partnered with Conservation International to co-sponsor a global community challenge on the app that triggers a donation to the non-profit’s ‘Protect an Acre’ initiative, making a tangible impact for the conservation of forests.
Organizers of the Baba Yaga virtual premier left their event space up in AltspaceVR so you and your friends can jump in and explore. Not sure if you’ll run into Hudson or Ridley, but hey, you never know!
Baba Yaga is available now on the Oculus Store for $5.99.
Image Credit: Baobab Studios