With more and more vr shorts being made, it’s no wonder that the Sundance Institute’s New Frontier program for 2017 is hosting a swathe of them. Their program of vr and augmented reality experiences was recently announced for the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Some experiences are from directors and artists who have worked in traditional or cg animation, and others represent the rise of dedicated vr studios.

“Every year, more artists are drawn to the vanguard of art and technology: independent, creative storytellers have more tools to break the mold than ever before,” said president and founder of Sundance Institute Robert Redford. “For the last decade-plus, New Frontier’s vision has evolved and grown with this expanding palette, to curate and showcase the most exciting new work made with the latest advances.”.

Here’s a preview of five of the animation-centric vr experiences that will be part of New Frontier. The full list of projects can be seen on the Sundance web site.


Artist: Eric Darnell

Eric Darnell was a director on DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar and now a co-founder of Baobab, which has already showcased its wares in vr with the short, Invasion! This new Asteroids! short continues the story, following alien duo Mac and Cheez with a new adventure. Baobab already has some significant funding behind it and seems to be leading the way in accessible 360-degree immersive shorts.

Dear Angelica

Artist: Saschka Unseld
Key Collaborators: Angela Petrella, Wesley Allsbrook, Maxwell Planck, Ryan Thomas

We just noted last week that Oculus’ vr drawing tool for its upcoming Touch is being provided free with the new hardware. Quill was developed specifically for Saschka Unseld’s Dear Angelica to allow for painterly brushstroke effects to be realized in a vr environment. There has been much anticipation behind the former Pixar artist’s film, given it was previewed at the last Sundance Festival.


Artist: Tyler Hurd

Tyler Hurd has been making a name for himself in vr music videos. A former gaming artist from Double Fine Productions, Hurd made an early vr short in 2014 called Butts, and more recently, “Old Friend,” a room-scale vr music video for the band Future Islands that was presented at Tribeca Film Festival’s Virtual Arcade section earlier this year. His music video for “Chocolate” by Giraffage is set in a sparkly world with many, many cats and a robot god – perfect for vr.

A still from 'Chocolate' by Tyler Hurd, an official selection of the New Frontier VR Experiences program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. © 2016 Tyler Hurd.
A still from ‘Chocolate’ by Tyler Hurd. © 2016 Tyler Hurd.

Artists: Gil Baron, Jonnie Ross, Adam Levin
Key Collaborators: Jonnie Ross, Gil Baron

L.A.-based studio Visionary VR is behind “Mindshow,” a vr experience where users actually make interactive films. To do that, users record a 3D gaming environment to build a virtual set and then add characters. But it’s more than that – you can also share scenes you’ve made back and forth with friends and then post them online.


Artists: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël
Key Collaborator: Owen Burke

Virtual reality studio Felix & Paul is already known for several immersive showings that focus on cinematic-like experiences, including ones related to Jurassic World, Cirque du Soleil, and the film, Wild. “Miyubi” involves a Japanese toy robot and a family living in 1982 suburban America. Interestingly, the team has inserted about 40 minutes with hidden scenes, which means there’s likely to be a lot of exploring in this experience.

A still from Miyubi by Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael © 2016 Felix & Paul Studios.
A still from Miyubi by Felix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphael © 2016 Felix & Paul Studios.