It’s a bit of an accident the way Penrose’s next VR movie came to be named. Allumette means “matchstick” in French, and it was the temporary name for the title character in a private screenplay that was not intended to be seen by the outside world. Gradually the name grew on us, and as Allumette’s world came to be built around her in VR, so the name stuck. Allumette.
Allumette is very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Little Match Girl”. This short story was a literary tale of social justice, with Andersen highlighting the unjust plight of orphans across Europe in the 19th century. Allumette is intimate on an emotional scale – focusing on the love between a mother and her child as well as the sacrifices that people are willing to make for the greater good.
Simultaneously, we tried to push the boundaries in terms of scope and scale. To tell the story of Allumette, Penrose crafted an entirely new and fantastical VR world, with a city loosely inspired by Venice floating in the sky. Clouds lap the buildings like waves in the winding canals and rios of Allumette’s world. We see ourselves not only as storytellers, but also as VR world builders.
A New Art Form
VR movies are a new art form, wholly different from cinema, the stage play or the opera that came before. Even the word “VR Movie” is temporary nomenclature—a stop-gap between the last great visual audio art forms and this new one. This means that VR creators, including ourselves, stumble in the dark, looking for things that work. Many things do not, but a great deal of our creative and technical advances are driven by serendipitous discoveries that help define the artistic grammar with which we are trying to speak.
As an example, one of our animators showed early, rough “blocking” animation which had a jagged, stop motion look, unlike traditional finalized animation which is more fluid and smooth. We were surprised at how this changed the perception of our work, as it placed the characters in a miniature, hand-crafted, stop-motion world. We’ve dreamed about this sort of thing as children, with little toys, but they’ve never come alive and moved the way our characters move in VR. Seeing a character move in stepped animation—being able to look all around a character moving in a completely novel way—is quite literally something new to the human experience, and was a stylistic evolution for our film. If nothing else, Penrose focuses on expanding the boundaries of what we know we can do in VR, and we hope Allumette takes us a step further in that direction.
Increasingly, our work is happening natively in VR, especially as Penrose’s engineers and artists continue to refine our own native VR creation tools. We’re excited to share more about this in the near future.
So, ultimately, we are pleased to announce that our serendipitous discovery, Allumette, will be coming soon. And while she lives in this other, fantastical world, soon the residents of this one will be able to go there too.