The company has already launched successful VR animated shorts such as Invasion!, a funny title dreamed up by Baobab’s creative team, including Madagascar director Eric Darnell, co-founder of Baobab.
The success of Invasion! and its subsequent episode Asteroids!—as well as the pedigree of the company’s founders—has made Baobab a very valuable startup. To date, Baobab has raised $31 million.
Horizons Ventures led the financing, with the participation of Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners (supported by TPG Growth and CAA), China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners. They’re joining the original investors, Comcast Ventures, HTC and Samsung. Collectively, investors believe in the massive potential of Baobab Studios not only as an early pioneer with a palpable vision, but also as a studio driving VR entertainment through strong user engagement, top management and VR animation hires, and multiple coveted awards.
This new round of funding will be used to develop more animated VR films and grow Baobab on a global scale, said Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab, in an interview with VentureBeat.
‘This is a great validation for us,’ said Fan. ‘We’re focusing on being great storytellers I’m very pleased with the amount of money raised And pleasantly surprised at that.
How easy it was because of the traction we’ve shown on the market ”
In addition to the new funding, Baobab is expanding its Executive Team. Larry Cutler joins as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), bringing in deep technical expertise in animation and development. He was Technical Director of Pixar for Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc. And then DreamWorks Animation became the global leader in character technology. Cutler is also a judge of the Academy Awards’ Technical Achievement Awards and co-founder of DigiPro.
Baobab has also appointed Chris Milk, a well-known founder and CEO of Within, a prime location for story-based VR content, as a member of its advisory board. Milk has a long history of creating and inventing innovative products and has won multiple industry awards. His work tests the boundaries of interactive technology, including the use of VR as a canvas for storytelling.
Baobab Studios has launched Invasion! Episode One, an interactive animated VR short film narrated by actor Ethan Hawke. That short won a lot of attention because it was unique and funny, and it debuted its second episode, Asteroids!, at the Oculus Connect event in San Jose, California. That episode was just as funny. And it was obviously enough to get the company financed Baobab is planning to launch a full-length version of Asteroids! next year.
The film is a high-profile download in major digital stores, including Oculus, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung, Within, Hulu and others.
‘I’m excited to invest again, as Baobab Studios has completed a stellar team of former Zynga executive Maureen Fan, master storyteller Eric Darnell, and narrative technology veteran Larry Cutler. This cast is set to define the grammar of storytelling and experiences in VR,’ said Phil Chen, formerly the founder of Vive, and now in Horizons Ventures to explore VR/AR, in a statement. ‘Baobab Studios is a pioneer in VR storytelling and technology, and their traction and reception by partners, audiences and tasters has been phenomenal. ”
Baobab Studios was founded by Darnell, Chief Creative Officer, and by Fan, former Vice President of Games at Zynga, in 2015. Darnell is best known for his talents as director and screenwriter of all four DreamWorks Madagascar movies, which together have raised more than $2. 5 billion at the box office. He also starred in The Penguins of Madagascar and Antz, DreamWorks’ first animated film Fan played leading roles in film, gaming and the web, and most recently as vice president of games at Zynga, where she oversaw three studios, including the FarmVille sequel, contributing 40% of the company’s revenue. Previously, she was working on Pixar’s Toy Story 3
‘We’re on the cusp of a storytelling revolution with this medium, and VR gives filmmakers the opportunity to develop immersive experiences and take audiences into the story as never before,’ said Mike Dunn, President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Fox Innovation Lab. ‘The Baobab Studios is an innovator in this space, and we look forward to working with them. ”
Fan said she thought the company’s shorts were popular because of the emphasis on the story.
‘Technology is there to serve the art, not the other way around,’ she said. ‘Everyone is excited about the technology and distribution that we have. But Eric has a great sense of humor, and his background is experimental animation. We want to create characters that are so attractive because you think they’re real. ”
Baobab refers to his films as VR animation. They’re both interactive and cinematic. The company has 20 employees;
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