This stop motion clay animation comedy series, starring Wallace and his loving dog Gromit, is iconic to U.K. culture. This next installation in the widely adored series will take place in Augmented Reality, with you as the new star.
Wallace & Gromit: The Big Fix Up was originally envisioned as a location-based experience in Bristol. In this adventure, audiences are invited to take part in Wallace’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners, taking on the contract of a lifetime to ‘Fix Up’ Bristol. While still in development, this announcement is an exciting first step of well-known content making big moves into the AR arena.
Susan Cummings, Co-Founder of Fictioneers, described how they began the creative process by scanning the city of Bristol with Fantasmo’s 3D technology. They spoke with local businesses, such as the Bristol Post Office, to feature in the experience that takes audiences to key locations in the city. When travel became uncertain earlier this year, the new challenge evolved into bringing the city-scale story to audiences at home.
“The journey is all about how to give the user a sense of agency and culpability,” said Cummings. The multiuser branching narrative will offer a number of decisions that all lead to the grand finale. There are phone calls, mixed reality portals- all types of media coming together in The Big Fix Up, said Cummings.
Their team also worked with Unity’s new software MARS, unveiled during AWE. MARS enabled Fictioneers to give Wallace and Gromit’s characters intelligence to understand space and dynamically move around. As every studio should, Fictioneers asked the question why AR? This type of real time storytelling enabled by MARS is a hint of what is to come with virtual beings that can drive real time engagement in ways that other mediums have yet to offer.
“There will always be a place for sitting in front of your television and watching Netflix, but I think there’s a real future for how to tap into that AR layer that we feel a part of,” said Cummings, adding that AR is frequently an afterthought, or a repetition of the same experience that is already available in 2D. “[AR] needs to be given a space to tell its own story,” she said.
Fictioneers worked with Aardman Animations (the creators of Wallace and Gromit) in writing room style, breaking the AR experience into story beats, looking at the best way to use the mediums available to get the narrative right. Insights into these collaborative efforts between technologists and creatives is a fantastic window into a new workflow where multidisciplinary teams come together to build innovative narratives that speak to the medium in use.
“Our UX team spent a lot of time on user research, learning how to help people use and interact with AR,” she said. Fictioneers worked with the University of South Wales to engage in a full research project surrounding the AR experience. “Do people feel like they had a complete story? Was it cohesive? That’s how I’ll define success,” said Cummings.
The Big Fix Up focuses on bringing people together and social sharing. Whether simple captions from the story or sharing the full narrative experience, fans will be able to repeat the story and share their adventure across social platforms. “It’s a family property, a lot of people will be participating together. It’s an 8-80 experience,” said Cummings.
The experience was created in partnership with Fictioneers; a consortium of British companies including Potato, Sugar Creative and Tiny Rebel Games with funding from UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) as part of its Audiences of the Future program. The Big Fix Up will be released later this year, with some special new characters soon to be announced.