Baobab Studios Raises $25 Million From Horizons Ventures, 20th Century Fox, Others for Animated Virtual Reality Films

Janko Roettgers
Variety

Virtual reality startup Baobab Studios has raised a $25 million Series B round of funding from Horizons Ventures, Twentieth Century Fox, Evolution Media Partners, China’s Shanghai Media Group, Youku Global Media Fund and LDV Partners. Original investors Comcast Ventures, HTC and Samsung also contributed to the funding.

Baobab is best known for “Invasion!”, an animated VR short that stars two aliens who encounter a lovable bunny as they attempt to invade earth. The animated VR experience features narration by Ethan Hawke, and has become one of the most popular titles on Gear VR and other virtual reality headsets.

News of the funding comes just one week after Baobab previewed “Asteroids!” as a sequel to “Invasion!” on Gear VR, and two weeks after Roth Kirschenbaum Films announced a deal to adapt “Invasion!” for a full-length movie. “It shows the market validation of what we are doing,” said Babobab Studios co-founder and CEO Maureen Fan about the new funding.

Fan worked at mobile game company Zynga before founding Baobab in 2015 together with Eric Darnell, who is best known for directing “Antz” as well as the “Madagascar” franchise at Dreamworks. In addition to the new funding, Baobab also announced Tuesday that it has promoted Larry Cutler to the role of CTO. Cutler’s previous stints include more than a decade at Dreamworks and four years at Pixar, where he was technical director for “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters Inc.”

Thanks to Darnell and Cutler, the company is uniquely positioned to tell its own stories, as opposed to license characters from other companies, said Fan. “We are focused on creating original IP.” She added that Baobab is working on multiple projects in addition to “Asteroids!”

Asked about her take on the state of the industry, Fan wasn’t ready to talk about VR going mainstream just yet. “I’m more cautious,” she said. “It’s gonna take longer than everybody thinks.”

Baobab Studios, which is based in Redwood City, Calif., employs a team of 20. Including this latest round, the company has raised a total of $31 million of funding.

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