This Entrepreneur Is Pushing VR Into Animated Movies

This Entrepreneur

Is Pushing VR Into Animated Movies

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Everyone has heard of Virtual Reality, but with Maureen Fan, CEO of Baobab Studios, films are about to get a lot more engaging. In particular, the Emmy nominated actress and director Elizabeth Banks, is going to star as the main voice for the new Baobab Studios VR animation “ASTEROIDS!”, which is scheduled for release in 2017. Banks is widely known in pop culture, and combining her talent with this new entertainment medium is sure to make Baobab Studios much more widely known.

Maureen Fan is somewhat of an animation superhero, who studied at Stanford undergrad and designed her major to be computer science, art and psychology, which is the perfect major for animation. However, instead of going into film after graduating, she went into Ebay as a designer and was there for  five years. Fan still really loved animation, though, and made a point of taking classes at the community college to further her talent.

As an incredible overachiever, Fan then went on to Harvard Business School for her MBA and took an internship at Pixar, helping the production team with Toy Story 3–yes, I’m sure you’re all jealous too! Following her work with Pixar, Fan was employed by the game company Zynga as a senior product manager, and worked her way up to be vice president of games. On weekends she helped two friends work on the short film, The Dance Keeper, which was eventually nominated for an Oscar.

This diverse background is what lead Fan to launching her new venture Baobab Studios, changing the entire animation industry through VR.

“When I watch animation, it brings back that five year old in me, it brings out my sense of wonder.”

When she worked at Zynga, Fan had the most women and the most minorities on her team, and as a female minority, she says that she was more comfortable hiring similar people to work with and build a trust with. She has brought this idea of inclusivity to her new VR-focused company  Baobab Studios, which has an incredibly diverse workforce.

Baobob’s first product, “INVASION!,” was actually meant to be an experiment to see if the company had what it takes to make a successful product. Much to Fan’s surprise the animated VR movie became the number one downloaded piece of content (in VR), and later got picked up to be made into a feature length animated film. Thanks to Baobab Studios and Fan’s genius, this is the first time VR is being sourced into Hollywood instead of the other way around.

And while it appears that Fan has only had successes in her life, that is not actually the case. While still working at Zynga, she was part of a team designing a game that got cancelled. About this trying time, Fan says, “That was very difficult for me because I hate failure, but at the same time I always tend to gravitate towards projects that are riskier, that I think will make a huge impact.” Words to live by. How quickly can you pick yourself back up and try again after experimenting with a risky project? Well that might be a little easier with two more points of advice from Fan:

Always make sure you’re asking questions–if you’re not asking, you’re going to lose out. Men are asking for promotions etc, so don’t become disadvantaged by not doing the same.

Get a ton of sponsors and mentors.

She also makes sure to clarify that women shouldn’t strive to become more like men in these industries–women don’t have to change, but the system has to change. With more women like Fan entering and improving the industry, this change should hopefully happen towards bettering women in a more male dominated work place.

So what’s the big vision for Baobab Studios? “With virtual reality, not only are you inside the experience, you can become an active participant in it.” Meaning, Fan and her coworkers want to make VR films that affect people’s emotions and allow them to truly become apart of the film they are watching. You are a character and you have impact on what happens to the other characters in the story. What you do impacts how the other characters feel, and how they feel about you, which then changes your emotions. Incredible, right?

Make sure to keep a lookout for the newest animation, “ASTEROIDS!” and what’s sure to be many more successes in Fan’s, and Baobab Studios, future.

Colleen Minkewicz

Colleen is a college student at SUNY New Paltz graduating in Spring 2017 majoring in English and Creative Writing. She aspires to become an editor/work in publishing in the future.

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