Jeff Gipson creates Disney’s first-ever Virtual Reality short film, “Cycles” with the help of his Grandparents

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Director Jeff Gipson (Frozen & Zootopia) brought the art of Virtual Reality (VR) to Disney with his latest short film, “Cycles.” “Cycles” premiered at the New York Film Festival Convergence on Oct. 13-14. The short is inspired by Gipson’s personal story of his childhood and relationship with his grandparents (Bert and Rae) and their home, the memories made until the day of his grandfather’s passing and grandmother’s move into assisted living.

“I was inspired by this story because it’s something that was very impactful in my life and something that a lot of other families can relate to as well,” Gipson said. “Not to mention, it’s inspired one of my biggest interests of visiting empty, abandoned homes and imagining the families and memories that had been created on those properties.”

Gipson’s interest in animation sparked from his former career as an architect due to the similarities in digital design. Having spent years designing skateparks, Gipson developed a fascination for empty pools and the places attached to them. He drew his pitch to Disney from his observation of the pools and homes and curiosity the properties planted.

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(Credit: Jeff Gipson)

“It’s crazy to think about how ‘Cycles’ came about,” Gipson said. “Riding my BMX bike in these pools and thinking about this idea of this family in these homes and kind of going backwards to the moment where they lived in them and starting that from little sketches or little ideas on a piece of paper and then transforming that into a finished film is so cool and so surreal at the same time.”

The interactive VR short film takes watchers through a second-person point of view experience from the inside of grandparents’ home. The story begins with scenes portraying a couple’s romantic love while waltzing around the living room and the liveliness of children running through the house and backyard. With the changing of seasons, so comes age. Witnessing the passing of his beloved Grandpa Bert, and Grandma Rae’s loss of her home, and a first-person experience ending the story… Not to mention, a soundtrack composed and performed by Gipson’s mother, Jaquie Gipson. The touching story of Bert and Rae is one that will surely honor Gipson’s family and allow his grandparents to live on in the form of Disney characters, touching the hearts of viewers through virtual reality goggles for generations to come.

“I never thought I’d be able to make my grandparents Disney characters,” Gipson said. “But it’s really amazing.”

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