Baobab Studios Ushers in New Era of VR Animated Storytelling. $6M Series A Funding From Marquee Investors.
Content featured on Samsung Milk VR, New company founded by film, gaming and tech industry veterans
REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Dec. 3, 2015 – Baobab Studios today announced $6 million in a Series A funding round led by Comcast Ventures with participation from HTC and Samsung Ventures. Media investors Advancit Capital, The Chernin Group and Freelands Ventures also joined, along with Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. A sneak peek of Baobab’s animated film, “Invasion!” is featured on Samsung Milk VR, a premium virtual reality content service, available via Samsung Gear VR powered by Oculus.
Baobab Studios was founded by Maureen Fan and Eric Darnell, who bring years of experience in gaming, animation and story creation. Maureen was vice president of games at Zynga, where she oversaw three studios, as well as the FarmVille sequels, which contributed to 40 percent of the company’s revenues. She was on the production team for the 2015 Oscar-nominated animation short, “The Dam Keeper.” Eric comes from DreamWorks Animation where he directed such movies as the “Madagascar” franchise and “Antz,” and worked as a story artist and lyricist on “Shrek.” Beloved by millions, these movies collectively earned more than $2.5 billion at the box office. The team is rounded out by leading experts in animation, production and computer vision from DreamWorks Animation, Pixar and Lucasfilm.
“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 Studios CEO and co-founder Maureen Fan. “With our investors, team and partners, we have the foundation to become the preeminent animation studio for VR.”
“Virtual Reality is a natural medium for animation,” said Gavin Teo, Principal at Comcast Ventures. “Storytelling and technology in tandem will define new and immersive content experiences in VR. Maureen, Eric and the team at Baobab Studios represent a unique combination of artistic and technology expertise. They are developing impressive technology that will shape how stories are created and enjoyed in VR.”
Baobab’s “Invasion!” is now available in the Samsung Milk VR service, giving consumers access to premium content for its recently launched Gear VR device. Baobab has committed to continued VR content creation for Samsung Gear VR in 2016.
Along with its founders, Baobab brings together a coalition of industry experts with such advisors as animation innovator Glen Keane (“The Little Mermaid,” “Tangled”); DreamWorks Animation Co-President Mireille Soria; David Anderman, Chief Business Officer of Jaunt and former Lusasfilm COO; Pixar Animation Studios co-founder and alpha channel co-inventor Alvy Ray Smith; Pacific Data Image co-founder and former DreamWorks Interactive CEO Glenn Entis; and Twitch co-founder and COO Kevin Lin.
Baobab 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. “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.”
About Baobab Studios
Baobab Studios, headquartered in Redwood City, Calif., is a virtual reality company that creates story and character-driven cinematic experiences. The company was founded by Maureen Fan, who was most recently VP of Games at Zynga; and Eric Darnell, the director of such DreamWorks animated features as the four "Madagascar” franchise films and “Antz.” Baobab is funded by Comcast Ventures, HTC, Samsung, Advancit Capital, The Chernin Group and Freelands Ventures, along with individuals including Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
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