HENRY ORPHANED

Written by Fred Bailey

5/30/2017

That cute little porcupine Henry doesn’t have a home anymore.

Henry was the groundbreaking star of an eponymous animated Virtual Reality short that won an Emmy for best Original Interactive program in 2016.

Henry was born at Oculus Story Studio, the Facebook-owned content generator of VR headset manufacturer Oculus.

And now Facebook has announced that Oculus Story Studio has been permanently shut down.

Since the studio was focused on narrative-driven VR content, this is seen as a fairly serious blow to the burgeoning VR field, something that Hanhai Studio has been keeping a close eye on.

Oculus Story Studio, barely two years old, was responsible for the creation of other high-profile, award-winning VR content, such as Dear Angelica and Lost.

Those last two titles were helmed by a former Pixar director, Saschka Unseld, Creative Director at the studio.  He’s now out of a job.

Oculus VP Jason Rubin said the company isn’t deserting VR creative content, it’s just shifting its focus “away from internal content creation to support more external production,” meaning outside producers.

Rubin promised that Oculus is going to continue to “fund non-gaming, experiential VR content,” to the tune of at least $50M, with the money being funneled “directly to artists to help jumpstart the most innovative” VR concepts.

In the meantime, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says that VR “won’t be a big part of our business for a while.” 

This feels like a bit of a setback, as Virtual Reality practitioners grope for ways to apply storytelling skills to the piping-hot new medium.