Virtual reality is a potent tool for art and storytelling, but we're still exploring the best ways to use it. One route in might be looking to the past — as this short film featuring Disney animator Glen Keane shows. You might not know Keane's name, but you'll almost certainly have come into contact with his work as an animator for Disney classics such as Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast. Keane is a master in using line and form to express emotion, and watching him work in 3D space with a HTC Vive VR headset and what looks like the fantastic Tllt Brush app is spellbinding.
"I just step into the paper and now I'm drawing in it."
"By putting tools in your hand that can create in virtual reality, I can put goggles on and I just step into the paper and now I'm drawing in it," says Keane in the video, a promotional teaser for the upcoming Future of StoryTelling festival. The 61-year-old animator has more than a little experience in this area, having left Disney in 2012 to work on various digital projects including a series of animated shorts made with Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP).
Keane drawing Ariel in 3D. (Future of StoryTelling)
Of course, watching someone draw in 3D space is mostly spectacle, but as Keane says, artists are still trying to find the best ways to take advantage of this technology. And if even traditional practitioners like Keane can find a home in the new digital world, the future looks pretty hopeful. "When I draw in virtual reality I draw all the characters real life size," says Keane. "That doorway to the imagination is open a little wider. The edges of the paper are no longer there. This is not a flat drawing — this is sculptural drawing."