How 'Age of Sail' Went From Virtual Reality to 2-D Animation

How 'Age of Sail' Went From Virtual Reality to Animated Short-Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Google (2)

John Kahrs' film, about a curmudgeonly sea explorer, was converted to 2D in an effort to make waves in the awards race.

Age of Sail, an animated short film that follows an old sailor (voiced by Ian McShane) adrift on the open sea in 1900, had an unusual journey into existence. The film, directed by John Kahrs (who won an Oscar for Disney's 2012 romantic animated short Paperman), started as a virtual reality project for Google Spotlight Stories.

Following the creation of the VR narrative, the creative team made a flat 2D version of the story for Oscar consideration. In the tale, the sailor reluctantly rescues a teen who has fallen overboard, and in that act, he finds redemption. "He wants to die; he doesn't think he matters. But by the end of the story, he says, 'I want to live again,' " Kahrs explains, adding that the film is a dose of It's a Wonderful Life.

The story was inspired by his childhood memories of going sailing with his father. "The open ocean is something that traditional cinema doesn't really convey quite right," he says. "I wanted to capture that [with virtual reality]."

This isn't the first time a flat version of a VR project has been created for awards season, though it's not typical. Google Spotlight Stories musical Pearl — directed by Oscar winner Patrick Osborne — also had an Oscar-qualifying release that led to an animated short Academy Award nom in 2017.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.