Award-winning immersive entertainment company Felix and Paul Studios premiered Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: The Seven Ravens, its first mixed reality experience, last month at the 80th Venice Film Festival. Once again, the venerated production company is on the cutting edge of immersive art and entertainment.
The Seven Ravens is a mixed reality experience that started with Magic Leap in 2018 but took five years to complete. I saw it standing in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in Austin, at the South by Southwest Festival, in March 2023. Co-director and producer Paul Raphaël handed me a Magic Leap 2 and a thick, large-format children’s book to give me a confidential look at the studio’s first mixed reality experience. I watched in awe and delight as the characters literally jumped off the pages, and the book itself transformed into a metaphorical stage. Neil Gaiman’s narration adds a sense of gravitas, which complements the fear, desperation, and mystery at the heart of the fairy tale. Raphaël swore me to secrecy but now I can say it: this is the ten-year-old studio’s best work.
The physical book is of the essence, Raphaël told me in a Zoom interview. “First of all, we’ve all read a book, and no matter where we are, we could be on the bus, and we’re instantly transported. It’s a ritual we’re all familiar with. Second, it creates a tactile relationship with the experience. You’re holding the world in your hands. It reacts to your every movement. You control the rhythm in a very intuitive way. You don’t need to explain to anyone how to do it. Once the app is running, there’s no interface other than turning the pages. It comes to life, and you move the story forward by turning the pages.”
Raphaël and his partner Félix Lajeunesse first pitched Lisa Henson, whose company was rebooting their classic Storyteller series with Gaiman as narrator. “When we met with Rony [Abovitz, then CEO of Magic Leap] he told us the story about how Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand had a big influence on him while he was starting Magic Leap. There was so much synergy. It really felt like it was meant to be,” said Raphaël. Delayed by problems at Magic Leap, and interrupted by the pandemic, the project found support from Epic Games and Qualcomm. There is a working build on Qualcomm Spaces, so the experience could eventually be deployed against a wide range of XR devices.
Felix and Paul Studios is mum about distribution plans. Raphaël would only say “We’re talking to everybody right now. “I have no doubt The Seven Ravens mixed reality masterpiece will come to live on many platforms, from smartphones to the Apple Vision Pro due next year.
Felix and Paul Studios is also exhibiting Space Explorers: Blue Marble, Orbit 1, which takes us on a full time-lapse orbit around the Earth. It was shot in cinematic VR from the International Space Station, using a specially designed and engineered camera. With a full 360° open perspective, the film offers inspiring, unobstructed vistas of planet Earth.
The entire Felix and Paul Studios Series, Space Explorers: Blue Marble Trilogy was created with the support of NASA and is now available for free on Meta Quest.
Charlie Fink is the author of the AR-enabled books “Metaverse,” (2017) and “Convergence” (2019). In the early 90s, Fink was EVP & COO of VR pioneer Virtual World Entertainment. He teaches at Chapman University in Orange, CA.