When creativity and technology come together, some pretty amazing things can happen. Case in point: Remembering, the new Augmented Reality short film by Elijah Allan-Blitz.
The Santa Barbara–raised, Emmy Award–winning director of the virtual reality series The Messy Truth VR experience — a collaboration with TV host/progressive activist Van Jones, which allowed viewers to see the world from another person’s perspective — recently turned his talents to a family audience in a project with Disney that includes a first-of-its-kind companion Augmented Reality app.
The Disney+ film stars Captain Marvel herself, Academy Award-winner Brie Larson, as a writer who loses an important idea when her phone rings and distracts her. Who among us can’t relate to that? Through some beautifully shot movie magic, the lost idea is reflected as a golden light, which is then found by her inner child, played by newcomer Dusty Peak, a pint-sized charmer who just happens to be Larson and Allan-Blitz’s neighbor.
In true collaborative style, some of the imagery came out of Peak’s imagination, said Allan-Blitz. “I love working with kids. Brie is also incredible working with kids, and we just were having fun, just hanging out with our neighbor during the pandemic…. And I remember one day, Brie was like, ‘I think you need to make a movie with Dusty because this — she’s just incredible.’ You’ll see it in the film, but she’s just such a special human.” They queried her on “What does the world of imagination look like?” and she described dolphin clouds and unicorns made out of the moonlight and rainbow slides — all these things that they later brought to life on set.
They filmed on the volumetric stage, “where they actually shot The Mandalorian,” said Allan-Blitz, clearly excited about that himself, and “when Dusty actually showed up on the set that day, we had all the stuff that she talked about created in front of her … it wasn’t a green screen; it was live, on-set projection mapping.”
In addition to the appealing themes in Remembering — imagination, creativity, ideas, memory, and storytelling, and the relationship between childhood and adulthood — the film is designed to be visually beautiful and seamless, with or without the Augmented Reality app. It certainly enhances the experience, but if, for example, the number of kids in the room outnumbers the number of iPads or phones with the app, all of the family will still be able to watch and enjoy the movie.
When asked about what came first, the idea or the technology, Allan-Blitz, a former Santa Barbara Open Alternative School and Santa Barbara Middle School teacher, said, “I’ve been wanting to do something like this for about five years. And I’ve been consistently told it was impossible. It was only when I connected with the Disney Studio Lab that they said, ‘You know what, let’s figure this out’ and kind of jumped in with both feet. They have been the most incredible teammates and made this whole thing a reality.”
Looking back at his own Santa Barbara childhood, Allan-Blitz says school was never his thing, but a social studies teacher who let him make a movie, rather than forcing him to write papers, sparked something creative in him that clearly lasted.
“For the last eight years or so, I’ve been working a lot in the VR space (for PBS, HBO, and Laird Hamilton, among others). … It’s just a new way for humanity to interact with entertainment,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean that all shows have to be like this, so that everybody needs to have an AR component. But there is this ability that we have; it’s accessible on all of our devices that we have in our hands. A lot of people sit watching TV with the phone in their hand, and it’s like, why not utilize that device to then actually engage them deeper into the story?”
Remembering is now available to watch and interact with on Disney+.