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VR Startup Baobab Studios Just Won Two Daytime Emmys

Other outstanding individual achievement awards in animation went to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Channel.

Baobab Studios, the VR startup best known for its 2016 animated short “Invasion,” has won 2 Daytime Emmys for outstanding individual achievements in animation for its latest VR short “Crow: The Legend,” the Television Academy announced Wednesday morning. Baobab character designer Kal Athannassov won the individual achievement award for character design, while Baobab art designer Cody Gramstad was recognized for production design.

The startup won the two Emmys alongside 2 outstanding individual achievement awards in animation given to Disney Channel (Alan Bodner, production design and Brian Woods, background design, both for “Rapunzel’s Tangled Adventures”), as well as one each to Netflix (Kevin Wotton, storyboard for “Spirit Riding Free”) and Amazon Prime Video (Yizhou Li, character animation for “Tumble Leaf”).

“We are just really honored to be recognized alongside so many companies that we love and look up to,” said Baobab CEO Maureen Fan in an interview with Variety. “We are proud of Baobab’s passionate and dedicated artists and engineers who have pushed the artistry of using real-time rendering, and enormously gratified by these Emmy wins.”

So why do the Emmys honor VR even though a headset isn’t necessarily something that first comes to mind when you think of TV? National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences president and CEO Adam Sharp told Variety that it was due to the evolving nature of the medium itself. “Because television has changed so much over time, the Emmy’s have evolved as well,” he said.

Sharp said that most people had a clear understanding of what television was, even if they were watching it on a phone, or even a VR headset. “It’s not the device that determines it,” he said. “It ends up being a lot more experiential.”

“Crow: The Legend” was released on VR headsets and as a 360-degree video last November, and has since garnered close to 7 million views across all platforms. The short film features a star-studded cast including Oprah, Constance Wu, Diego Luna and John Legend, who also composed the soundtrack and performed an original song.

In addition to the newly-awarded Daytime Emmys, “Crow” has also been recognized with an Annie Award for best virtual reality production, and 4 additional Daytime Emmy nominations, which were announced last week.

The individual achievements in animation awards are the only category of the Daytime Emmys decided by a jury, and not a judging panel or online audience votes, which is why they are announced separately from the other categories.

Sharp called this year’s Emmy’s selection “the most competitive we’ve ever had,” adding that the Academy was encouraged by studios like Baobab using technology not just for technology’s sake, but in a thoughtful way. “It’s what makes it an Emmy-worthy experience,” he said.

Ultimately, the presence of VR stories at the Emmys proved that TV was alive and well, he argued. “TV is not fading away. Daytime is stronger and more diverse than ever before.”

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