12:55pm PT by Carolyn Giardina
Oscar-Winning 'Feast' Director Creating 360-Degree Short Film for Google (Exclusive)
Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind Wallace and Gromit; and Patrick Osborne, director of the Oscar-winning animated short Feast, have both signed on to make inventive shorts for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group's 'Spotlight Stories.' The two projects will be designed so that they can be viewed interactively on a mobile device — viewers will be able to track the characters through a 360-degree environment by moving the device.
Aardman co-founder and Oscar-nominated director Peter Lord is overseeing the Alfred Hitchcock-inspired Special Delivery, which is being directed by Tim Ruffle. "The idea was to try to use the particular strengths of Google Spotlight Stories," Lord said. "What fascinated me was the possibility to read a story — or more than one story — across a city landscape. So the inspiration really was Hitchcock's Rear Window, where the hero, Jimmy Stewart, has to work out what's going on in a narrative that is revealed piece by piece through the windows of an apartment block. Like the Google Spotlight Story viewer, he can choose where to look, but he can't actually step into the scene. In the movie, he's an active, creative viewer — and that's what we want our audience to be. Of course we don't have the luxury of 120 minutes, so ours is going to be highly condensed."
The story takes place on Christmas Eve in an inner-city apartment block, where a janitor who lives alone and is still working, discovers an intruder. "The hardworking janitor has to track down an incredibly elusive intruder in a cat-and mouse chase around the buildings — up and down fire escapes, in and out of apartments," Lord related. "Of course the resolution will be a happy one for the janitor, but on the way there, the viewer can try to follow the janitor, or get ahead of him, or follow the mysterious intruder — or even get sidetracked briefly by the other occupants of the apartment block."
Osborne’s short, currently titled Pearl, features a father and young daughter and takes place entirely inside a car. It will be told in a musical format about the “gifts we inherit from our parents, both tangible and intangible."
“We are still learning how storytelling works in 360 degrees; it seemed like a place that’s fresh for exploration,” Osborne told The Hollywood Reporter of his reason for tackling the format. “I like the idea of trying to tell a story by making something that happens all around you, and without the quick cuts that we are used to. The idea [for Pearl] was to tell a story inside one automobile, and see the story unfold that way. … You don’t want to disorient the viewer. It’s difficult to storyboard in a traditional way.”
The format has an eye toward virtual reality, an area that Google already supports using a mobile device with its Google Cardboard. “Spotlight Stories is a platform for artists and filmmakers to make stories in diverse formats, from animation to live action, for audiences with mobile devices, and that includes virtual reality,” said Pearl producer and Google Spotlight Stories executive producer Karen Dufilho-Rosen, who produced Pixar’s Oscar-winning shorts Geri’s Game and For The Birds. “Right now the 'Story Development Kit' is being used by a handful of studios (including the current group of Spotlight Stories producers). We hope to make the SDK more widely available to creators soon.”
The Google group has been rounding up leading talent to create its content. Also in production on a Spotlight Stories project is Emmy Award-winning artist Shannon Tindle (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends), whose short is titled On Ice and is being produced at Evil Eye Studios in San Francisco. Planned for release later this year, On Ice tells the story of an over-the-top, sci-fi themed ice show and its star, who suddenly finds he has competition for the spotlight from an unlikely rival. London’s Nexus Productions (Oscar-nominated short This Way Up) is also in early stages of a production, led by creative director Chris O’Reilly. These, as well as the shorts from Aardman and Osborne, will be CG-animated.
At Google’s I/O conference, which began today in San Francisco, Google’s ATAP group is launching a Google Spotlight Stories player app for Android devices (and soon iOS).
Available on the app are the first four stories in the Spotlight series, including its newest, Help, written and directed by Justin Lin (Fast & Furious films, True Detective, the upcoming Star Trek 3), which debuts on Friday at the I/O conference. Help is an actioner that starts when a young woman investigates what appears to be a meteor that has crashed into a downtown Los Angeles street. It's executive produced by Lin’s production company, Bullitt, and features visual effects from The Mill.
Also available on the app are Duet, directed by iconic animator Glen Keane (Aladdin); Windy Day, directed by Oscar-winner Jan Pinkava, (Geri's Game); and Buggy Night, from animator Mark Oftedal (Toy Story).