A new virtual reality company founded by top film, gaming and tech industry talents has raised $6 million in a Series A funding round led by Comcast Ventures in which HTC and Samsung Ventures also participated. Other notable investors include Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Baobab Studios was co-founded by Maureen Fan, former VP of Games at Zynga, and Eric Darnell, former DreamWorks Animation director of the Madagascar franchise and Antz. Fan’s gaming leadership and Darnell’s storytelling expertise are augmented by the technical skills of Michael Hutchinson, who was the technical lead for all character technology at Dreamworks Animation.
Baobab has made a sneak preview of its animation film, “Invasion!” available via Samsung Gear VR through the Milk VR app.
“Our mission is to create compelling cinematic characters and stories that bring out the innate wonder in people and inspire them to dream of new worlds they never imagined before,” said Baobab Studies CEO and co-founder Maureen Fan in a statement.
The company aims to become the preeminent animation studio for VR, according to Fan. Baobab already has a number of former Dreamworks, Pixar and Lucasfilm employees in addition to a board of advisors of similar ilk to help it realise this aim. They include Glen Keane (“The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled”); DreamWorks Animation co-president Mireille Soria; David Anderman, chief business officer of Jaunt and former Lucasfilm COO; Pixar Animation Studios cofounder Alvy Ray Smith; Pacific Data Image cofounder and former DreamWorks Interactive CEO Glenn Entis; and Twitch co-founder and COO, Kevin Lin.
Baobab’s computer-animated content will be available on high-resolution VR headsets like Samsung Milk VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Sony PlayStation VR. Baobab has committed to continue creating content for Samsung Gear VR in 2016 and also plans to work with HTC to distribute its movies in the coming year.
“Baobab’s has one of the strongest teams in VR,” said Phil Chen, chief content officer and founder of HTC Vive, in a statement. “Their combination of technology, creative storytelling, and business talent uniquely positions Baobab to become the Pixar of VR. We are excited to be working with them to make VR mainstream for consumers over the coming years.”