This year, within the framework of the Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes XR - VeeR Future Award competition section was created, the program of which included the animated interactive VR work ‘Under the Pillow’ by the Russian director and founder of the Russian VR Seasons initiative Georgy Molodtsov.

The animated story is based on a fairytale by Sergey Molodtsov, a journalist from the Ural and the father of director Georgy Molodtsov. It is a one-of-a-kind animated project with traditional animation series, interactive VR series, and a mobile AR game about Mormitten, the handmade cuddly kitten-like toy, who helps children find their beloved "treasures", as well as to overcome difficult periods in their lives.

The presentation of this project took place in the Russian pavilion. Georgy Molodtsov spoke about the film, the potential for using VR technologies in Russia and possibilities of international distribution. He also presented the Cannes XRussia: NewImages of VR, festival which is taking place on the same dates in Moscow and St. Petersburg with a demonstration of the best works from the largest French festivals.

The event was held in an unusual format – part of the presentation took place right inside the virtual reality scene, demonstrating how new technologies create the possibility of being present without the physical ability to cross borders.

Evgenia Markova, CEO of ROSKINO:
‘As you know, the future belongs to new technologies that are gradually becoming mundane attributes of our life. VR projects cannot yet be called ‘mundane’, and to a certain extent, this is good. Cinema is surprising. It surprises us with new ways of creating an artistic reality into which the viewer is immersed. VR is about exotic flowers that smell almost perceptible, and rumbling waterfalls with their cooling spray, about a fantasy world in the true sense of this expression. Industry leaders are already using the technology now very successfully, but there is still a huge space ahead for the implementation of the most daring ideas. Today we see this on the example of a unique animated VR project, which confirms that the combination of advanced IT developments and a fascinating story gives birth to a real work of art. The widespread recognition of VR by the professional film community and by the audience themselves is only a matter of time.’

Georgy Molodtsov, director:
‘The Under the Pillow project, which we are presenting at the Russian Pavilion, is the first episode of an interactive VR film at the intersection of storytelling and gameplay. But it was important for us not to create this entire universe that was going to be limited only to content available in virtual reality helmets. The model of the use of game engines underlying the project will allow us, with much less effort than in traditional animation, to create adaptations of this story with the same characters, locations and plots, but already for traditional animation, mobile games and other formats that will help us to immerse a much wider audience in the world of cat Mormitten. Participation in the Cannes Film Festival program draws international attention of the Russian animation and film industry to the possibilities of using VR to create both innovative and traditional projects.
It is very important that Russia not only participates in such an innovative program in Cannes but also hosts the Cannes Film Festival program in VR format in two cities at once. In Moscow, screenings are held from July 7 to 17 at the Mars Center, in St. Petersburg – at the Lenfilm Cinema Center from the 11th to the 17th. Before the pandemic, festival VR was inaccessible to the general audience; only festival attendants could enjoy it. We gave everyone the opportunity to walk the red carpet, both real and virtual, and see the participating projects with their own eyes in Russia.’

As Georgy explained at the presentation, he has been involved with VR since 2015 – it was a time he and his partners had held the first festival, and in 2017 they came to Cannes to show the Russian VR Seasons program, in which projects were demonstrated in 360 format, i.e. movies could only be watched in VR helmets, spinning around. Now the project Under The Pillow is already a complete interactive episode, which begins its own distribution destiny thanks to a partnership with the Chinese company VeeR, which has bought the first episode for a two-year distribution. But the presence of Russia on the international market is not limited to one animation VR project: new co-productions are being launched, and a boom of virtual (XR) production studios is to take place in Russia.

‘Last year in Venice and now at the Cannes Film Festival, a very important process is taking place for the industry – now VR projects can be watched at the comfort of your home by purchasing a subscription to the virtual exhibition centre. Another option for their demonstration is the organization of exhibitions in partner countries in parallel with the dates of the main festivals. People come to such events with pleasure, realizing that this is not just entertainment, but also art’, – said Georgy Molodtsov. – ‘I think that the interaction between Russian and foreign markets will take place in the field of production service: our use of VR / XR technologies in live filming is being developed at a very fast pace, and the quality of the material meets the requests of the most demanding foreign studios. This is a key message and it needs to be conveyed to the international community.’