Gymnasia, the virtual reality experience from EMMY® Award-winning creator Felix & Paul Studios, in collaboration with the Academy Award®-winning National Film Board of Canada, will premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in the Virtual Arcade

The six-minute experience flawlessly blends 3D 360-degree video, stop motion, miniatures and computer-generated graphics (CGI), and pushes the art of puppet animation into uncharted territory. Gymnasia will be available for download on the Oculus Store beginning April 26, 2019.

Gymnasia is a dark dream—unsettling and weirdly wonderful. It is the first stop motion VR experience to induce the elusive anxiety that occurs when the lines between “real” and “unreal” are blurred beyond belief. In Gymnasia , viewers step into the stillness of an abandoned school and enter a place where the ghostly ephemera of a lost childhood await them. The immersive experience recalls the sights and sounds of a child’s world through the echoes of ball games, school lessons and choir recitals.

Gymnasia was produced by Stéphane Rituit (Felix & Paul Studios) and Dana Dansereau (NFB) and directed by the award-winning duo Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski (Clyde Henry Productions). Montreal-based musician Patrick Watson composed music for the experience with immersive sound design and capture provided by Headspace Studio.

“For us, creating VR has always been as much about the neuroscience of this fresh medium as it is about art theory. Indeed, in no other art form are aesthetics and science so aligned,” said Chris Lavis, co-director of Gymnasia. “The Gymnasia installation at Tribeca will be an engaging and surreal experience for festival-goers and our hope is that this unique installation will completely upend their sense of scale and reality.”

When viewers walk into the installation space, they are immediately immersed in the world of Gymnasia with the eerie room tone of children humming in a gymnasium that creates a sense of space larger than the one the viewers are in. On the walls are animated projections of running puppet children and, in the corner, a full-scale puppet of a “teacher” places acetate musical sheets on an overhead projector. Viewers are then directed by “scientists” in lab coats toward a row of plastic child sized chairs, the type found in every grade school cafeteria. In the last chair, a puppet sits waiting patiently for the viewer to put on their VR headset to begin viewing the GYMNASIA experience.

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