×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

VR Review: ‘Allumette’

Penrose Studio previewed its newest animated tale, “Allumette,” at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Now, it’s out as a PlayStation VR launch title, as well as on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Animation powerhouses like Disney have long perfected the craft of retelling classic stories with cutting-edge technology. Virtual reality-focused Penrose Studios, which was founded by former Oculus exec Eugene Chung in 2015, is now taking this approach to the next level.

Penrose debuted “Allumette”, a 20-minute animated film loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “Matchstick Girl,” on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR Thursday. And just like those Disney movies, “Allumette” goes to show that technology is a means to an end, and that good stories always win.

“Allumette” is the story of a young girl who is stranded in the dark and cold, staying warm by lighting up oversized, magical matches. Each match unlocks a memory, just like in Andersen’s classic fairy tale. Only this time, those memories tell the girl’s back story: The dreamlike world of houses and streets floating in the sky that she used to travel with her mom; the love that they had for each other; the lessons her mom taught her; the tragedy that tore them apart.

All of this is being told in an animation style that can be best described as intricate, and has a very hand-crafted feel to it. In VR, viewers can take full advantage of this by getting up and close to the action. “Allumette” was made specifically for VR headsets with positional tracking, so viewers can find their own vantage point, look closely at the characters, peek behind corners, get down on their knees to see what’s happening on a town square floating below, or even stick their head into the ship to see detailed interior decoration and mysterious spinning gears.

Without giving away too much, it’s obvious from the source material that “Allumette” doesn’t have a Hollywood happy ending. But the intimacy of the medium, and the sense of being right there while the story unfolds, do give the classic tale a new emotional quality. In other words: This may actually be the first VR experience that makes you grab for some tissue after watching it.

Penrose didn’t hold back on the feels for “Allumette,” but it did actually make deliberate use of VR technology. Viewers are immersed in the story, but there’s no interactivity. The flow of time doesn’t depend on where you look, forcing you to watch the whole thing again if you missed something essential. There’s no use of input controllers, and no gamification at all. Instead, the focus is on the story, which shines on its own.

It’s still early days for storytelling in VR, and producers will have to find their own answers to many questions. Interactivity is one of them, and others may make a good case for more of it. Another question many have been asking is: How long can viewers comfortably wear a headset and stay focused on a story? Just a few months ago, many would have argued that 15 minutes is the upper limit for a VR experience. “Allumette” runs a full 20 minutes, but doesn’t feel a minute too long.

VR Review: ‘Allumette’

More Digital

  • Google Placeholder

    Google Accelerates Google+ Shutdown Following New Privacy Mishap

    Google will shutter its struggling social network Google+ sooner than previously announced: The company said Monday that Google+ will shut down in April of 2019. It also disclosed a new security vulnerability that briefly exposed personal data of some 52.5 million Google+ users. The bug, which was introduced to Google+ in November, allowed developers to [...]

  • Eddie Lazarus Sonos

    Sonos Hires Tribune General Counsel Eddie Lazarus as Chief Legal Officer

    Smart speaker maker Sonos has hired former Tribune exec Eddie Lazarus as its new chief legal officer. Lazarus will be in charge of all legal, regulatory, compliance and SEC reporting issues, among other things. Prior to joining Sonos, Lazarus worked as general counsel and chief strategy officer for Tribune Media. Before that, he was chief of [...]

  • Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify

    Rhapsody, Sony Music to Launch Spotify Competitor in Japan

    Rhapsody and Sony Music Entertainment today announced a partnership to launch what they describe as the first on-demand, high-resolution streaming music service in Japan. Rhapsody International is providing its “Powered by Napster” platform including a set of systems, tools and APIs to allow SMEJ to quickly launch and bring its on-demand service to market. The service, [...]

  • Vidcon Sarah Tortoreti

    VidCon Has a New Marketing Chief: Nickelodeon's Sarah Tortoreti

    VidCon tapped Sarah Tortoreti as VP of marketing to head up the digital-creator and video confab’s promotional strategies worldwide. Tortoreti joins VidCon from Viacom’s Nickelodeon, where she was director of marketing and brand strategy since April 2016. In early 2018 Viacom acquired VidCon, founded by veteran YouTube creators Hank Green and John Green. In the newly [...]

  • Julie Henderson - Snap

    Snap Taps 21st Century Fox's Julie Henderson as Communications Chief

    Fox PR veteran Julie Henderson has been named chief communications officer of Snap, parent company of social-messaging and media app Snapchat. Henderson, who is currently EVP and chief communications officer for 21st Century Fox, will report to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. Henderson is set to start at Snap immediately after the completion of the sale [...]

  • THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY

    'The Umbrella Academy' Superheroes Series Premiere Date Set on Netflix

    The dysfunctional-family superheroes of “The Umbrella Academy” are landing on Netflix worldwide on Feb. 15, 2019. The live-action series is based on the “Umbrella Academy” comic books created and written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá, published by Dark Horse Comics. The Netflix original series comprises 10 one-hour episodes. “The Umbrella Academy” stars [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content