Jon Favreau takes virtual reality to Hollywood
Jon Favreau has brought talking animals and smart-alecky superheroes to the big screen. For his next project, he’s luring miniature goblins into virtual reality to become one of the first major filmmakers to create an original work using VR.
The filmmaker, who worked on promotional VR tie-ins to his recent live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book,” is collaborating with VR studios Wevr and Reality One on “Gnomes & Goblins,” an interactive series based on an original Favreau creation.
“I like making movies,” said Favreau at a Wednesday preview of the VR title. “This – for me, personally – was more about what would be the most fun thing to create in VR.”
The room-scale VR experience, which will initially be available for the HTC Vive system, casts users as a human-sized avatar that can move around in an enchanted forest and interact with an adorable tiny goblin. For instance, plucking an acorn off a tree and handing it to the little guy could win over his affection.
“I didn’t want this to feel like you’re playing a VR game , but I didn’t want it to just feel like you’re watching a movie, either,” said Favreau. “It was really finding that balance, so the interactivity was intuitive but not a puzzle. Ultimately, we put most of our brainpower into creating a goblin that felt organic.”
While many studios and networks have developed VR experiences to promote films and TV shows, Favreau is among the first of established Hollywood filmmakers to embrace the immersive medium and craft an original VR title.
“Jon was very hands-on with his pitch,” said “Gnomes & Goblins” creative director Jake Rowell, who previously worked on “theBlu” VR series. “He envisioned this entire ‘Legend of Zelda’ and Tolkien-esque world with sketches and diagrams. We ultimately brought it to one location with that world.”
Unlike filmmaking, Favreau expects users’ reaction to the “Gnomes & Goblins” preview will affect how he and the crew approach future installments of the 360-degree series.
“This is all new territory for me,” said Favreau. “I’ve never done anything like this and don’t know what’s going to happen. I just know I’m having a really good time.”