Disney’s second experimental VR short makes its world premiere at SIGGRAPH 2019.
After debuting their first experimental VR short film Cycles 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 incredible 360-degree VR Theater—including Baobab Studios Bonfire and Shadowmachine’s Kaiju Confidential—a kite’s tale continues Disney’s trend of blending conventional, hand-drawn animation with cutting-edge CG, offering audiences a nostalgic experience that’s as cute as it is 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. When we first meet our cast of characters, the dragon kite is far too busy being majestic to fool around with the energetic young kite. Of course, this being Disney film, one thing eventually leads to another—and what do you know–the two kites end up becoming best buds despite their obvious differences. 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 almost surgical in their pairing of hand-drawn animation with CG technology, and it’s safe to say the results speak for themselves. The younger kite, for instance, features a hand-drawn puppy that endlessly bounces around the confines of the kite; meanwhile, the veteran dragon kite—animated entirely in CG– moves effortlessly with the wind in grand fluid motions. Every facet of the kites’ designs 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 was arguably the most impressive aspect of 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. Overalll the biggest negative I found was in the run-time. As soon as I found myself beginning to connect with the characters, the credits had already begun to role, leaving me desperate for more of the dynamic duo.
With two impressive VR short films now under their belts, Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Circuit experimental program is quickly becoming one of the most impactful VR filmmaking programs currently in circulation. No doubt the funding and resources offered by Disney will prove indisposable to the growing VR filmmaking industry.
Feature Image Credit: VRScout