LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 22: In this handout photo provided by Hilton Honors in partnership with Live Nation,Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic performs onstage at Abbey Road Studios to celebrate travel through the Hilton Honors' program Music Happens Here, exclusively for Honors members at Abbey Road Studios on April 22, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Handout/Getty Images via Brian Nevins/Live Nation)
Christmas has classic movies, TV specials and songs. So, given it is 2017, it seems time for a Virtual Reality Christmas classic. CEEK VR, which offers music experiences with U2, Lady Gaga, Disclosure, Nas, NERD and more, has combined Christmas, Christmas music and VR with A VRy Merry Experience, available at https://www.oculus.com/experiences/gear-vr/1509521155763419/.
The visually stunning, hand-painted, six-chapter VR experience tells the love story of Mr. and Mrs. Claus as told through their eyes and featuring a different holiday song for each chapter, starting with Gwen Stefani’s “When I Was A Little Girl” as the soundtrack for Chapter One, “The First Snowfall.”
Chapter Two, “The Yearning,” features One Republic’s moving ballad “Christmas Without You.” Here is an exclusive preview of “The Yearning,” featuring “Christmas Without You.”
Other artists on the soundtrack are the Jackson 5, Mary J. Blige, Oliver and Lady Gaga. I spoke with Mary Spio, CEO of CEEK and Executive Producer of A VRy Merry Experience, who talked about the music selection, creating the narrative and if A VRy Merry Experience is the beginning of a new wave of VR holiday specials.
Steve Baltin: How did you team with the artists selected?
Mary Spio: First, we selected timeless hits that fit the theme of the underlying story and holiday season. However, we wanted the songs to be enjoyed throughout the year and for music fans to enjoy for generations to come.
Baltin: Was it story or music first or simultaneous?
Spio: The holiday is a time when the entire family gathers, and we wanted the experience to be loved by everyone. The music was chosen after the narrative took shape, as to reflect and influence the overall experience. We wanted to create the ultimate Christmas celebration in a way that has never been done before by using Virtual Reality to bring the narrative to life in the most enchanting and magical way. For example, the first chapter unfolds with “When I Was A Little Girl” by Gwen Stefani. We show a little girl’s evolution to adulthood in order to visualize Santa and Mrs. Claus’s first meeting. The same applies for all the songs. The musical soundtrack accompanies you in perfect harmony as you move, hover, and fly in time and space through the eyes of Young Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Baltin: Which drove the narrative?
Spio: The inspiration for the story transpired from the universal themes of Christmas songs that everyone can relate to, for example: The magic and innocence of the first snowfall, the yearning for those we loved and lost, the warmth of the season, and in our VR world, imagining life without the goodwill of Christmas. Most of the story was hand painted with 3D Virtual Reality Software, then modeled in 3D and animated. The VR Sonata is a brand-new format that we pioneered, so in a way the process drove the narrative since there is no dialogue. The story is unveiled through the music and vivid imagery. We brought art to life with animation, to give people the feeling of being in a Christmas postcard. Like any music video or live experience, I’m sure people will have their own interpretations or just enjoy the experience in novel and unintended ways.
Baltin: Do you see this extending to other holidays or to Christmas in future with more artists?
Spio: Absolutely. We’ve started a new VR tradition that we plan to continue. We are launching on Christmas Day because of the overall theme, however the experience goes way beyond the holiday, like “The Edge Of Glory,” by Lady Gaga and “Electrify,” by Oliver.