Pixar Co-Founder Warns Virtual Reality is “Not Storytelling”

Though virtual reality has been occasionally declared a breakthrough in narrative technology, Ed Catmull, a co-founder and the current president of Pixar Animation Studios, has advised caution.

In an interview with The Guardian, Catmull pointed out the persistent failure of virtual reality to help put together narratives catching the widespread interest of the public. He insisted that the technology “isn’t storytelling”, adding that people had stumbled in “trying to do [virtual reality] storytelling for 40 years.”

The influential computer scientist noted that the “gigantic” games industry demonstrated that virtual reality could thrive within an artistic medium, but also that games are too different an art form. He explained: “Linear narrative is an artfully-directed telling of a story, where the lighting and the sound is all for a very clear purpose. You’re not just wandering around in the world.”

Nonetheless, he said that VR storytellers “should keep running the experiments”, and made clear that he was willing to be proved wrong about the technology’s potential in this area. He recalled the “silly” skepticism about Pixar’s first computer-animated film Toy Story before its theatrical release in 1995, remarking that “it still happens: people haven’t seen something before, then they question it”.

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