Pulse Evolution, a specialist in creating holograms, has received a $10 million investment from Chinese companies Original Force Computer Animation Co. and Shanghai U9 Game Co., Variety has learned exclusively.
The companies have bought $10 million in Pulse common stock at a valuation of $1 per share. Both Original Force and U9 Game are backed by Chinese digital-entertainment giant Tencent Holding Limited.
Pulse Evolution’s executive chairman John Textor gained notice for the computer-generated animation of Tupac Shakur, projected in holographic form at the 2012 Coachella Valley Music Festival. Textor was CEO of Digital Domain Media at the time.
Textor launched Pulse in 2014 with the production of a “virtual” Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards.
“We are certainly pleased to have the support of Original Force and its chairman, Harley Zhao,” said Textor. “We have great respect for their commitment to story-based content, and we share a belief that the greatest of stories deserve the very best in visual imagery.”
Textor said the investment by Shanghai U9 Game is a validation of its technology. “Digital humans are pervasive across the game space, and we will enjoy the opportunity to upgrade the standards of digital life with such an impressive and fast-growing video-game company,” he added.
The investment is part of a larger strategic relationship through which Original Force and U9 Game have become the first licensees of Pulse Evolution’s human animation software. Original Force and U9 Game have also become partners of Pulse’s affiliated entertainment production companies.
Pulse Evolution has secured exclusive rights to the digital likeness of Jackson, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and counts each of these estates as founding shareholders.
Original Force founder and president Harley Zhao said in a statement: “Original Force has always aspired to the highest ideals of rich storytelling and stunning visual imagery in our films and in our games. The people of Pulse represent the greatest traditions of computer animation, and their new company has quickly become the gold standard of human animation. We are thrilled to be their partners.”
U9 Game CEO Liang Liu said, “As the convergence of film, games and live performance continues, it is critical that we are able deliver the most visually stunning, believable and engaging human characters into the increasingly digital domain.”
Rene Eichenberger, vice chairman of Pulse, noted its shareholder group includes the principals behind Highlight Communications, Constantin Film and Lego.
Pulse has about 40 employees in San Rafael, Calif., and another 10 at its Florida headquarters.
Original Force is producing the animated film “Duck Duck Goose” with a voice cast that includes Jim Gaffigan, Carl Reiner, Stephen Fry, Jennifer Grey, Molly Shannon, Diedrich Bader and Rick Overton.
“Duck Duck Goose” is the first of three animated films currently in production at Original Force Animation. The company opened a Los Angeles-based production and development office in August, led by Penney Finkelman Cox and Sandra Rabins.