Producer: Baobab Studios Inc.

Released: Oct 12, 2016

Platform: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift

“Invasion!” is a short VR film created by Eric Darnell, the director of Madagascar. It depicts the interactions between two aliens, Mac and Cheze, and their encounter with two of Earth’s most benign animals: fluffy white bunnies. Rather than putting the viewer on the sidelines to merely watch the scene unfold, the experience puts the viewer directly in the middle of the action—in the body of one of the white bunnies.

This was one of the aspects I enjoyed most about the experience. When the initial cutscene ended, I was quite surprised to look down and find that I had a giant white belly, and very round, adorable paws. This physical embodiment of one of the characters in the scene is something very unique to VR, and dramatically adds to the immersion of the storyline. I actually spent most of the first time watching looking down at my bunny body and not paying attention to the plot around me, since it was both very cute and very novel.

Unfortunately, this immersion was almost immediately broken by the fact that moving my hands did not elicit a reaction from my bunny body, who’s arms seemed to be glued down. As a result, I wanted to explore how much interactivity the film offered (since moving my hands clearly wasn’t one of them). I found that moving around in the room actually moved my bunny character with respect to its surroundings, but surprisingly did not cause the other characters in the scene to noticeably react to my movements. I think the experience would improve greatly from incorporating these small details, but it was nevertheless enjoyable.

I had never watched a VR film before, and one of the worries I had prior to the experience was not knowing where to look, since there would always be parts of the virtual scene not in my field of vision. Luckily, the use of sound was very helpful in directing my gaze and indicating the key components of the story’s plot. Also, like any traditional film, the music also did very well in helping set the overall mood and emotions of the scene.

Overall, the animation and storytelling were extremely well done. There were never any unnecessary movements or transitions between scenes that might have caused nausea, as the two main scene changes were handled by simple fades. While the producers easily could have only included the middle part of the film where I was in the body of a bunny, I actually really enjoyed the first and last scene in outer space, since it really visualized the vastness of space and how alone and small Earth really is.

“Invasion!” was an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes du Marché du Film, and Toronto International Film Festival.