Classic cartoon duo Wallace and Gromit will venture from their clay-mation world into ours as part of a new augmented reality experience that aims to push the boundaries of tech-driven storytelling.
The interactive app, Wallace and Gromit: The Big Fix Up, makes use of city-scale AR gameplay, extended-reality portals and comic strips as it walks the viewer through a narrative about the animated pair starting a business to fix up their British hometown.
Its creators—a team from Aardman Animations studio, AR media firm Fictioneers and AKQA-owned software developer Potato—hope that it will help inspire new types of non-linear storytelling rooted in mixed-reality formats like AR.
Fictioneers venture lead and founder Scott Ewings said the inspiration for the project started with a UK government grant designed to promote media innovation. The mandate for the funding was broad: put together an experience that would play to audiences of the future.
“It was one of those really big, blank-sheet briefs which you very rarely get,” Ewings said. “So we put together a vision for enhancing storytelling—particularly how storytelling could evolve through harnessing a whole variety of trans-media types and playing out in real time.”
From there, Fictioneers met with Aardman—the studio behind Wallace and Gromit—and decided that the beloved three-decade-old franchise would serve as an accessible world in which to set the first test of this new vision.
“We felt that Aardman and in particular, the Wallace and Gromit universe—those very well-loved and iconic characters—would play very well in terms of turning them into augmented reality objects and experiences,” Ewings said. “We felt that augmented reality in particular would be one of the media types and formats that we wanted to play with because it suited the story.”
The team used gaming developer platform Unity Technology’s Mixed and Augmented Reality Studio product and the AR Foundation toolkit to create the immersive world in which the experience is set. They also collaborated with Sugar Creative and Rebel Games and received research support from the University of South Wales.
Ewings said the team also developed software that will determine how the game plays out in real-time based on user interactions with the story.
“What we’re essentially doing with the software that we’ve developed is we are deciding when pieces of content get deployed, in what fashion they get deployed and what conditions each piece of content has attached to it,” he said. “That’s very much the way we’re breaking apart the concept of the traditional three-act story and starting to then build in interactions to it.”
Ewings hopes to build on the software engine the team created for the game to power other experiments in non-linear stories and extended reality formats, such as narratives told concurrently from different character’s points of views or stories with drastically different endings.
The app comes as AR has seen a surge in popularity among brands and content creators turning to the format as a way to engage disparate consumers amid the covid-19 pandemic. Amazon Prime, HBO and BBC have all recently built supplemental AR games and experiences to promote various TV and streaming titles.