This Animator Brings Characters to Life in Virtual Reality!

Mixing the wonder of virtual reality with the inspiration of a talented animator.


Innovation, Art
Mermaid cartoon

(Bonbonny /

This article is by Ever Widening Circles, an online platform that’s on a mission to prove it’s still an amazing world. View the original article here.

What if you could explore a world created by your favorite artist? If you could walk through a city street painted by Van Gogh, a landscape by Leonardo da Vinci, or the fantastical vision of Salvadore Dali? Soon, we will be able to take journeys into the minds of our favorite artists and animators as virtual reality allows them to take their art from two-dimensions to virtual 3D worlds!

Glen Keane was a Disney animator for nearly forty years. During that time, he drew some of the world’s most beloved characters including Ariel, Aladdin, and the Beast. As he put pencil to paper, his characters became more and more real to him, and yet, they were still confined to a 2-dimensional world.

After four decades of creating hand-drawn animation, Glen is taking on a new skill: moving his art from pencil and paper and into the magical world of virtual reality! Working with some of the latest technology, he is able to sketch beloved characters like the Beast and Ariel in life-size and explore the limits of his creativity to create new worlds for us to explore! Here are some of his insights on what’s possible!

“These are not drawings, they are real characters as they exist in my own life.” —Glen Keane

Putting on a virtual reality headset can be a transformational experience. Wearing it transports you to new worlds, taking you to distant lands, fantastical environments, and places humans wouldn’t normally be able to explore.

If the average person can be inspired by such an experience, what about an artist or animator? New technologies are making it possible for artists to create their own worlds, draw life-sized characters, and explore their creative limits beyond the 2D page and into 3D worlds. Imagine if you could explore an entire world created by your favorite artist!

What kind of new worlds would they create?

Enter, Glen Keane. As the illustrator behind some of Disney’s most beloved characters, he’s an artist with work as familiar to us as the Mona Lisa! His hands have shaped many a childhood.

For him, animation is more than just putting a pencil to paper: it is a process of bringing these characters—who are very real in his mind—to life in two-dimensions. This has always frustrated Glen. How can a flat page truly express a character? How do you really bring them to life? Well, what if you could draw them with the freedom of a sculptor?

Here is where we find our way back to the magic of virtual reality. Using a tool called Tilt Brush, now Glen and other artists can open up an entirely new world for their art. Here’s a beautiful piece from Future of StoryTelling looking at this new frontier through the possibility in Glen Keane’s eyes.

To see more brilliant work from Future of StoryTelling, check out their Vimeo page. They are an awesome community of creators from across media and technology exploring how storytelling is evolving in the digital age. You can learn more about them and their annual Summit on their site!

“The soul of any kind of creative artform is the freedom…” —Glen Keane

Think about what’s possible with this new world of art in virtual reality! Next, imagine exploring these worlds for yourself either as an artist or as an art lover. What an incredible experience it would be to see, in Glen’s case, beloved characters in life-size. Or to step into the mind of one of your favorite artists to experience the kind of world they would create!

Better yet, imagine how this kind of art could become accessible to people all over the world. People who might not otherwise be able to go to the world’s big art museums to experience work first-hand.

The possibilities seem endless, but seeing a variety of artists in action with Tilt Brush makes this new horizon even more exciting.

To help develop the Tilt Brush system, Google assembled a group of artists to create with the technology, give the Google developers feedback and unleash their creativity. The results are absolutely stunning. Take a look…

You can learn more about Tilt Brush over on their site. If you’re interested, maybe you or your artfully inclined loved one could try your hand at painting in virtual reality. You can also learn more about the Tilt Brush Artist in Residence program and check out some of the amazing work the artists put together here!

New Frontiers in Virtual Reality

We are only at the beginning of developing art in the digital era. Art forms like painting and sculpture have had millennia to evolve, so how will VR and our digital capabilities change in the coming century, or even in the coming decade?

More and more, it seems we are moving away from art and technology being siloed in opposing camps. And as they find ways to overlap, connect, and learn from one another we are starting to experience new and boundary-pushing horizons.