Oculus Story Studio has won an Emmy for its second film, a Pixar-esque animated short called Henry. Henry was named best outstanding original interactive program, part of an interactive media category that was added to the TV-focused awards in 2013. While it’s not the first virtual reality experience to win an Emmy, it’s the first time an original VR production — not one promoting an already-established franchise — has taken home a prize. It’s also a first for Oculus Story Studio, a division of Oculus focused on interactive film.
In a statement today, Henry director Ramiro Lopez Dau called his project "a step into the unknown world of making an emotional VR movie." Where Oculus Story Studio’s first project was a sci-fi short with no traditional characters, Henry followed an animated hedgehog named Henry, whose story was narrated by Elijah Wood. It was originally shown in 2015, but publicly released earlier this year. Oculus Story Studio is currently working on a third project, called Dear Angelica.
While it clearly draws from the Pixar tradition, Henry bucked the trend of virtual reality experiences being spun off from existing movies, TV shows, or other media. The first VR project to win an Emmy (in user experience and visual design) was a promotion for the Fox series Sleepy Hollow in 2015, and the award Henry won this year previously went to a non-VR 360-degree music video for Taylor Swift’s "Blank Space," as well as the web series Emma Approved. VR already has its own, far smaller awards ceremony, a two-year-old program known as the Proto Awards. But while the medium still hasn’t achieved mainstream success, it’s at least getting continuing recognition from the larger arts world.