Disney is taking its animation to a new medium with Cycle, a movie directed by Jeff Gipson, who worked on Disney films like Frozen, Zootopia, and Moana.
Walt Disney Animation Studios is set to debut its first virtual reality (VR) short film, Cycles, next month.
The film will be helmed by Jeff Gipson – who was a lighting artist on Disney films Frozen, Zootopia, and Moana – and based on his life in Los Angeles, where it is not unusual to find homes with an empty swimming pool reserved for skating or freestyle biking.
Gipson says it’s based on his childhood – his time spent with his grandparents and creating memories in their home, and later, having to move them to an assisted living residence.
“We wanted to create a story in this single place and be able to have the viewer witness life happening around them. It is an emotionally driven film, expressing the real ups and downs, the happy and sad moments in life,” says Gipson.
The film will be shown from Aug 12 to 16 at Siggraph 2018, the annual gathering of professionals and academics in computer graphics and interactive techniques industry.
Siggraph attendees can watch Cycles at the Immersive Pavilion, a new space exclusively for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality projects.
Gipson says pre-visualising the narrative for the new medium was a challenge, as they had to find new ways to storyboard.
His team used a mix of Quill VR painting techniques and motion capture to storyboard Cycles, incorporating painters and artists to generate sculptures or 3D models of characters early on and to draw scenes for the VR space.
The creators also experimented with light and colour saturation in scenes to help guide the user’s eyes during the film.
“What’s cool for VR is that we are really on the edge of trying to figure out what it is and how to tell stories in this new medium,” says Gipson.
“In VR, you can look anywhere and really be transported to a different world, experience it from different angles, and see every detail. We want people watching to feel alive and feel emotion, and give them a true cinematic experience,” he says.
The production team completed Cycles in four months with about 50 collaborators as part of a professional development program at the studio.
For Cycles, Gipson also drew from his past life as an architect, having spent several years designing skate parks, and from his passion for action sports, including freestyle BMX.