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Google Is Working on VR Short Film From ‘Book of Life’ Director Jorge Gutierrez

Google’s Spotlight Stories team has begun to work on a new animated virtual reality short film called “Son of Jaguar” from “Book of Life” director Jorge Gutierrez. The short, which is being produced in cooperation with Dallas-based Reel FX, is slated to be released next summer. It will feature a story about Mexican wrestling and Day of the Dead, Gutierrez told Variety. “It’s gonna be really funny and really emotional.”

Google has been using Spotlight Stories for the last three years to push the boundaries on 360-degree and VR storytelling with the help from animation legends like Glen Keane, Doug Sweetland and Jan Pinkava as well as award-winning animation studios like Aardman Animations, which is best known for creating “Wallace and Gromit.” Gutierrez said that all of his heroes in the animation world were working with Google on Spotlight Stories. “It felt like this was the Justice League for animators.”

Jorge Gutierrez (third from left) with the Spotlight Stories team. Photo courtesy of Google

Spotlight Stories began as a way to explore storytelling for mobile devices, with short films like “Duet” and “Special Delivery” inviting viewers to pan back and forth with their phone and use it as a kind of magic window to an invisible stage around them. “Pearl,” which was unveiled at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, for the first time also came with a virtual reality-optimized version for the HTC Vive headset.

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With this new project, Spotlight Stories is now moving even further into VR, with plans to release a version for headsets first. That’s despite the fact that Gutierrez had long been intimidated by the medium. “VR terrified me,” he said, largely because it has been so much of an uncharted territory for filmmakers.

At the same time, Gutierrez was intrigued by the idea of being able to step inside of one of his stories. “You always want to get inside,” he said. “You want to get into the world that you created.”

With its upcoming short film, viewers will be able to do just that. It will let viewers step into the shoes of a character by putting on a headset, much in the same way Mexican wrestlers become a character when they put on their mask. At least that’s the idea for now, during the very first weeks of the collaboration. Said Gutierrez: “We are going to do it, or die trying.”

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