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Wes Anderson Unveils ‘Isle of Dogs’ Stop Motion VR Experience at Sundance

If you’ve ever dreamt of dropping in on a Wes Anderson film set, you’re finally going to get your chance. Acclaimed American director and producer, Wes Anderson, has teamed up with VR Studio Felix & Paul to give fans at Sundance a behind the scenes look at his much anticipated stop motion film Isle of Dogs—in VR.

Although this is not the first stop motion VR project we’ve seen, this is a first for Anderson and probably one of the most unique we’ve seen.

The VR experience places you inside a miniature set of Isle of Dogs as you come face to face with the stop motion dog characters of Jeff Goldblum, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston and Bill Murray. The actors are interviewed as themselves, so you’re able to watch Bill Murray talk about the movie from the body of a little dog character.

You as the viewer feel like you’re the same size as the animated dog characters, a fun use of scale. Turn around to look behind you and the film crew is captured hard at work in time lapse, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at how the stop motion animation is created. You’re immersed between two worlds. There are even Easter eggs to discover as you look around, like when Wes Anderson pops up on one of the monitors off screen as he mimics one of the performances being animated. 

Apart from being a promotional piece for the movie, the experience also acknowledges and showcases the craft of stop motion animation. You can explore how the animators and technical members work on set, creating puppets, animating on computer systems, and drawing pictures on the walls that in time-lapse become fully realized drawings. All of this is an intimate window into what goes on in creating a beautiful stop-motion production like that Isle of Dogs.

The concept of the VR experience was a collaboration between Wes Anderson and Felix and Paul Studios, helping to bring the piece to life while making sure it felt technically and creatively comfortable. As any film-buff will know, Anderson is a frame guy. So every little detail in the shot was meticulously chosen and curated. Since the actual film sets weren’t made for 360° capture, Anderson came up with the idea to place the viewer inside the set, but as you turn around, you are surrounded by giant humans in hyper speed who are bringing the animation to life. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on VFX or recreating sets, the team successfully embraced the situation to fully immerse the viewer in the film in VR.

The animators also had to play a lot with scale. There were two to three different scales for each dog puppet depending on where the camera was in relation to the shot. The corresponding puppet needed to be picked for the right scale in VR. The experience was fully shot in stop motion using still cameras which is a departure from the usual 360° camera we so on most behind-the-scenes VR experiences. But what this did allow for is higher resolution capture that makes a huge difference in headset.

The full Isle of Dogs VR experience is set to be released in February by Google Spotlight Stories with an exclusive window for fans with Google Pixel phones and Daydream View headsets.

About the Scout

Zeynep Abes

Zeynep is a new media artist who got her start at LACMA’s Art+Tech lab creating AR installations. She then worked at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival's New Frontier Exhibitions and is currently studying computer animation and game development for VR and AR.

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