From Montreal to France–Gymnasia in VR

26 May

gymnasiaBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream–perhaps that’s what creators from Clyde Henry Productions (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, directors of Madame Tutli-Putli) were thinking of in Gymnasia–a virtual reality experience premiering May 28 at Montreal’s Phi Centre as part of the >HUM(AI)N exhibition, which runs through September 15. For Canadian users who like to experience this on Oculus devices, including the recently released Quest, it’s now available free of charge in the Oculus store.

Thankfully death is not what awaits users here. The themes are close. Here, the ghostly ephemera of a lost childhood is explored in an unsettling and weirdly wonderful virtual reality experience.


This software is co-produced by Felix & Paul Studios, the Emmy Award-winning creator of immersive entertainment experiences and the Academy Award-winning National Film Board of Canada (NFB). This launch follows a world premiere earlier this year at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it will soon head to France for its European premiere in the VR Works competition at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival, June 10 to 15.

From the Press Release:

A Cinematic Stop-motion VR experience

Step into the stillness of an abandoned school as you enter GYMNASIA and recall the sights and sounds of a child’s world through the echoes of ball games, school lessons and choir recitals—reanimating the memories of forgotten days. GYMNASIA is the first VR experience to induce the elusive anxiety that occurs when the lines between what’s real and unreal are blurred beyond belief. The project flawlessly blends 3D 360-degree video, stop-motion, miniatures, and CGI, and pushes the art of puppet animation into uncharted territory.

GYMNASIA was produced by Stéphane Rituit (Felix & Paul Studios) and Dana Dansereau (NFB). Montreal-based musician Patrick Watson composed music for the experience, with immersive sound design and capture provided by Headspace Studio. The installation was produced and installed by the Phi Centre, a Montreal-based multidisciplinary arts and culture organization, and is also being supported by​ the Adam Mickiewicz Institute ​as part of the Niepodległa program of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland​.

This groundbreaking, cinematic VR experience is the first collaboration between the National Film Board and Felix & Paul Studios, and marks the third collaboration for the NFB and Clyde Henry, following Lavis and Szczerbowski’s Oscar-nominated 2007 stop-motion short Madame Tutli-Putli and their 2010 live-action/animated adaptation of the Maurice Sendak story, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life.

Lavis and Szczerbowski were also recognized with a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Achievement in Art Direction for their work on Guy Maddin’s 2015 feature, The Forbidden Room, co-produced by the NFB, Phi Films and Buffalo Gal Pictures.


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