There’s a new VR company founded by former DreamWorks Animation and Zynga talent that’s put together an all-star crew of advisors and investors on the road to a $6 million Series A round of investment.
Baobab Studios is based in Redwood City and co-founded by Madagascar director Eric Darnell and Maureen Fan, formerly a vice president at Zynga. They have a team of 15 right now with talent from DreamWorks, Pixar and Lucasfilm developing both interactive content and 360-degree videos. Their first project Invasion! features a curious bunny and an unlucky alien and is available in Samsung’s Milk VR service. There is a trailer available now, and the studio is planning to release the full-length short in early 2016.
“Our mission is to create compelling cinematic characters and stories that bring out the innate wonder in people and inspire them to dream of new worlds they never imagined before,” said Fan, Baobab’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “We have the foundation to become the preeminent animation studio for VR.”
The investment round was led by Comcast Ventures with both HTC and Samsung Ventures participating as well as Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel. Media investors Advancit Capital, Chernin Group and Freelands Ventures are also participating in the round.
In a press release, HTC’s VR leader Phil Chen is quoted as saying the company is positioned “to become the Pixar of VR.” The list of advisors is lengthy and influential too. Among them are DreamWorks executives, a Pixar co-founder, an executive from Jaunt, along with former Disney animator Glen Keane as well as Twitch co-founder and COO Kevin Lin.
The company plans to create content for Gear VR and work with HTC to distribute movies in 2016. Baobab’s name comes from a tree with “magical qualities” featured in the Madagascar movies.