Dallas became a little more animated this week with the launch of a new studio: Flight School.
The company is being launched in partnership with Reel FX Animation Studio’s VR/AR division, and will be positioned as a multi-platform content studio.
Flight School reunites much of the key leadership from Shreveport, Louisiana’s Moonbot Studios, which laid off its staff last fall, and combines it with the well developed infrastructure of Reel FX, the 22-year-old Dallas studio that is a major producer of commercial advertising and feature films (The Book of Life, Free Birds).
Re-Uniting The Moonbot Gang
Plans to keep together the core Moonbot crew were formed last fall, after it became apparent that the investors in Moonbot would pull out their funding. An initial plan to sell the company to virtual reality/augmented reality Florida startup Magic Leap never went through, according to a story published this week by Business Insider, due to “complex issues” over Moonbot’s intellectual property. Magic Leap, however, did end up hiring around a dozen Moonbot employees.
But outside of Moonbot co-founder Bill Joyce, who retains the company name and is relaunching the company in Shreveport, Moonbot’s core team, including co-founders Brandon Oldenburg and Lampton Enochs, have all shifted over to Flight School. The new company operates out of the same location as the main Reel FX studio in Dallas.
It will be led artistically by chief creative officer Brandon Oldenburg, who co-directed the Oscar-winning Moonbot short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and executive creative director Limbert Fabian, who shares multiple Emmy Awards for his directing work on advertising shorts like Silent (Dolby) and The Scarecrow (Chipotle).
The move back to Dallas is a welcome home party of sorts for Oldenburg, who was employee No. 3 at Reel FX back in the mid-90s and helped develop the company until he moved to Shreveport in 2009 to launch Moonbot.
Flight School will be managed by CEO Kyle Clark, Reel FX’s current co-CEO, and executive vice president Lampton Enochs, former CEO of Moonbot. Oldenburg, Fabian, and Enochs are among a dozen or so Flight School members who are ex-Moonbot. Others include creative director/head of interactive developers Bohdon Sayre (former CTO of Moonbot), creative director Jake Wyatt (same role at Moonbot), and creative director/head of interactive designers Adam Volker (creative director at Moonbot). Overall, around 30 people, including creative directors, producers, animators, engineers, developers, and game designers comprise the launch team at Flight School.
Enochs told Cartoon Brew, “For Brandon and Limbert and me and the team that came over, we’re incredibly grateful. Chuck [Peil, Reel FX’s head of strategic partnerships] and Kyle [Clark] worked very hard and gave us this opportunity to keep the team together and keep doing all the amazing work [that we were doing at Moonbot].”
A Focus on VR
In recent years, Reel FX has become a leading content producer in the virtual reality field, with around 65 activations including a vr tie-in for the theatrical Power Rangers and Verizon’s Super Bowl 51 Virtual Gridiron VR experience.
Flight School promises to further expand Reel FX’s presence in the budding vr/ar/mr space. “We came to a point,” Clark told Cartoon Brew, “where we really wanted to take that vast production experience that we were applying to a lot of other folks, and bring an intellectual property and original content piece to the [virtual reality] table, and really bring a great creative team and great storytellers to be able to produce our own content.”
Oldenburg agreed that virtual reality is the “biggest paintbrush in our art kit,” but emphasized that Flight School is medium agnostic. “Specifically at Flight School, we are focused on telling great stories in emerging tech.”
What To Expect From Flight School
Flight School will debut its first project, Manifest 99, this June. Specifically designed for vr, the original concept “will set the course for the types of stories we love to tell” said Oldenburg, who described Manifest 99 as “an interactive narrative vr experience that leads the user on a mysterious and emotional journey of discovery and redemption.”
“Manifest 99 is just the tip of the development slate,” Chuck Peil told Cartoon Brew. He said Flight School is currently developing a dozen or so projects.