Baobab Studios Closes $25 Million In New Funding
Virtual Reality Storyteller Behind “INVASION!” Also Broadens C-Suite, Advisory Board
REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Oct. 18, 2016 – Baobab Studios, the award-winning creator of cutting-edge VR (virtual reality) animation entertainment, announces the close of $25 Million in Series B funding, backed by prestigious and powerful investors in film and technology, including several returning for a second round of investment. This brings total funding to date to $31 Million.
Funding is being led by Horizons Ventures with Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners (backed by TPG Growth and CAA), China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners. They join the original investors, Comcast Ventures, HTC and Samsung. Collectively, the investors believe in the massive potential of Baobab Studios not only as an early pioneer with palpable vision, but as a studio driving VR entertainment through strong user engagement, top management and VR animation hires, and multiple coveted awards. This new round of funding will be used to develop more animated VR movies and grow Baobab on a global scale.
Along with the new funding, Baobab is expanding its executive team. Larry Cutler joins as chief technology officer (CTO), bringing deep technical expertise in animation and development. He was Pixar’s technical director for Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., and then became global head of character technology for DreamWorks Animation. Cutler also judges for the Academy Awards’ Technical Achievement Awards, and is co-founder of DigiPro.
Baobab also has appointed Chris Milk, the well-known founder and CEO of Within, a premier destination for story-based VR content, to round out their deeply creative, influential advisory board. Milk has a long history of creating and inventing innovative products, winning multiple industry awards. His work tests the frontiers of interactive technology, including using VR as a canvas for storytelling.
Baobab Studios has launched “INVASION!” Episode One, an interactive animated VR movie short narrated by actor Ethan Hawke. Its universally appealing blend of film and gaming has created a VR experience both familiar yet new, enchanting film industry leaders and influencers alike. The film is a top-featured download in major digital storefronts, including Oculus, HTC VIVE, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung, Within, Hulu and others. “INVASION!” has received substantial critical acclaim right out of the gate, drawing accolades from film festivals globally including Tribeca Film Festival, Tribeca’s “Special Selection”, Toronto Film Festival, and at Cannes Next Marche du Film. A “First Look” experience recently launched for “ASTEROIDS!,” the second installment in the “INVASION!” series, with the full episode scheduled for release in 2017.
“I’m excited to invest again seeing Baobab Studios has completed an already stellar team of ex-Zynga executive Maureen Fan, master storyteller Eric Darnell and narrative technology veteran, Larry Cutler. This cast is set to define the grammar of storytelling and experiences in VR,” explains Phil Chen, previously the founder of VIVE and now at Horizons Ventures to explore VR/AR. Phil Chen continues, “Baobab Studios is the pioneer of VR storytelling and technology, and their traction and reception by partners, audiences and tastemakers has been phenomenal.”
Baobab Studios was founded by Eric Darnell, Chief Creative Officer, and Maureen Fan, CEO, in 2015. Darnell is best known for his director and screenwriter talents on all four films in the DreamWorks Madagascar franchise, which together have grossed more than $2.5 billion at the box-office. He also held top roles for The Penguins of Madagascar and Antz, DreamWorks’ first animated film. Fan has held leadership roles in film, gaming, and the web, and most recently as vice president of games at Zynga where she oversaw three studios, including the FarmVille sequels, contributing 40 percent of the company’s revenues. Previously, she worked on Pixar's Toy Story 3.
“We are on the cusp of a storytelling revolution with this medium, and VR gives filmmakers the opportunity to develop immersive experiences and take audiences into the story like never before,” says Mike Dunn, President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Fox Innovation Lab. “Baobab Studios is an innovator in this space, and we look forward to working with them.”
“So far we’ve seen record downloads of “INVASION!” by VR users, and our investors see the promise of this type of entertainment,” explains Maureen Fan, CEO, co-founder, Baobab Studios. “The only thing better than launching a new product in an innovative industry is having amazing validation from partners and consumers.”
About INVASION! Episode 1
INVASION! is storytelling in VR form with menacing aliens who come to take over Earth and destroy anyone that tries to stop them. Despite the aliens’ superior technology and firepower, the citizens of Earth rise up and defeat the invaders. But these citizens aren't humans, instead they are two of the cutest, meekest creatures of our planet, bunnies - and you are one of them! View the trailer here.
About Baobab Studios
Baobab Studios enchants audiences through immersive stories and fascinating characters, with child-like wonder. Established in 2015 Baobab Studios VR animations are dynamic narratives and storylines. INVASION! Episode One, is the studio’s first VR animated film, winning numerous awards including Tribeca Film Festival’s 2015 “Special Selection,” Cannes Next Marche de Film, Toronto Film Festival, and more. Baobab Studios is funded by Comcast Ventures, HTC, Samsung, Advancit Capital, The Chernin Group and Freelands Ventures, Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.