Noah Schnapp of “Stranger Things” fame has joined the voice cast of “Wolves in the Walls,” an animated VR series based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book by the same title. Schnapp will be voicing the brother of Lucy, the main character of “Wolves,” in the second chapter of the series, which is scheduled to premiere in April.
“We believe that Noah Schnapp brings a special quality to the brother role,” said “Wolves” director Pete Billington. “As soon as he read his first line, we were smitten. We love him in ‘Stranger Things’ and can’t wait for audiences to hear his performance in ‘Wolves in the Walls.'”
Fable, the immersive entertainment company behind “Wolves in the Walls,” shared the casting news exclusively with Variety ahead of Sundance. The company is also using the film festival to announce a new focus on what it calls virtual beings — characters that are powered by artificial intelligence and can respond to and interact with their audience.
“We are changing the make-up of our team radically to add machine learning folks,” said Fable co-founder and executive producer Edward Saatchi.
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Fable’s first foray into this new area of interactive story-telling with virtual beings is called “Whispers in the Night,” which is a kind of spin-off of “Wolves in the Walls.” In the piece, viewers get to interact with Lucy, the main character of “Wolves in the Walls,” and even have conversations with her. “‘Whispers is a natural language processing project where you can talk to a character,” said Saatchi.
Much like “Wolves in the Walls,” “Whispers in the Night” is also a VR experience, but Saatchi said that the company was working on quickly bringing the character to other mediums as well, including smart displays like Facebook’s Portal and Amazon’s Echo Show.
Fable wants to tie those different types of screens together by making Lucy a character that is not only able to respond to her audience, but actually remember things. “With ‘Whispers,’ we are exploring this idea of memory,” said the piece’s creative director Jessica Shamash. “She doesn’t reset and forget everything,” added Billington. And by remembering things that people tell her, Lucy is going to personalize the experience for each and every viewer.
Fable plans to premiere “Whispers in the Night” this coming summer, when the company is also going to hold a virtual beings conference in San Francisco. But even with that new focus on virtual beings, Fable plans to continue to work on “Wolves in the Walls,” which the company wants to release to consumers once it has finished all 3 parts, likely in 2020.
This week, Saatchi, Billington and Shamash argued that virtual beings powered by artificial intelligence can ultimately make such VR stories more meaningful, even if they may exist on multiple screens. Most consumers would not watch VR movies for longer than a couple of minutes, said Saatchi.
However, smart displays and phones might provide an opportunity to interact with virtual characters far more often, and for longer periods of time — which could ultimately lead to characters inviting viewers to join them in VR again. “I don’t think it cannibalizes VR at all,” he said.
And some of that artificial intelligence-based interactivity may even find its way back into “Wolves in the Walls,” suggested Shamash: “‘Wolves’ will be this living, breathing thing.”