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Facebook pulls the plug on Oculus VR animation studio

The 2-year-old Oculus Story Studio produced such animated shorts as "Henry," which won an Emmy Award last year.

Oculus Story Studio, the 2-year-old VR studio behind the award-winning short "Henry," is shutting down.
Oculus Story Studio

Facebook is closing its Oculus Story Studio, the award-winning unit that crafted computer-generated short films for the social networking giant's VR headset maker Oculus.

The closure of the 2-year-old studio, which produced such shorts as "Dear Angelica" and "Henry," was announced in a blog post Thursday by Jason Rubin, Oculus' vice president of content.

"We've been looking at the best way to allocate our resources to create an impact on the ecosystem," Rubin wrote. "After careful consideration, we've decided to shift our focus away from internal content creation to support more external production. As part of that shift, we'll be winding down Story Studio."

Rubin emphasized that Oculus isn't abandoning VR film and creative content, saying the company invested $250 million with third-party content producers last year.

"We're going to carve out $50 [million] from that financial commitment to exclusively fund non-gaming, experiential VR content," Rubin wrote. "This money will go directly to artists to help jumpstart the most innovative and groundbreaking VR ideas."

Unveiled at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Oculus Story Studio was the latest of the players looking to ride the wave of VR, a burgeoning field that promises to transport headset-wearing users to immersive, computer-generated environments, be it floating through outer space or walking with dinosaurs.

The concept has existed for decades, but big investments by the likes of Facebook, Samsung and HTC have spurred an explosion in sophisticated hardware available to consumers. Content makers like Oculus Story Studios are trying to figure out how to translate their skills to a medium that upends many filmmaking norms.

The studio's animated short film "Henry," a nine-minute piece about a cute porcupine whose spiky exterior threatens to make his birthday party a lonely affair, won an Emmy in 2016 for Outstanding Original Interactive Program.

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