You can play fetch with a frog-cat, fend off a ferocious beast with a flashlight and steal a lost pearl from a vengeful temple guardian. Listing off such “where else could you do these?” sorts of experiences feels like a trope when talking about virtual reality, but, seriously, where else could you do these outside of the boundless, ever-evolving worlds of Dreamscape Immersive?
Dreamscape, which opens its first storefront today, creates grand virtual reality encounters that allow visitors to literally step into the narrative. The Westfield Century City space debuts with three 12-minute productions running (Alien Zoo, Lavan’s Magic Projector: The Lost Pearland The Blu: Deep Rescue), and plans to add a fourth by next spring.
Virtual Reality vs Dreamscape
Unlike VR arcades, Dreamscape aims to set itself apart with its cinematic ambitions: Cofounder Walter Parkes has produced sci-fi standards like Men in Black and Minority Reportand held top positions at Amblin and DreamWorks; Hans Zimmer’s production studio composed the music; and AMC has partnered with the company to host storefronts at movie theaters around the country. Dreamscape also brings a bit of theme park magic to its DNA, as CEO Bruce Vaughn previously served as Walt Disney Imagineering’s chief creative officer.
While its creative pedigree is impressive, ticket-buying Angelenos will be more interested in the end result to justify their $20 purchase: an immersive attraction (which accommodates up to six guests) that puts the agency of advancing the storytelling directly into visitors hands—and feet and over their eyes. As Vaughn puts it, the use of VR at Dreamscape is similar to scuba diving; the equipment is simply a means to transport you. Tech is downplayed in favor of that transportive theme, which comes front and center at its travel agency-themed storefront. You check in at a departures counter and receive a ticket with a three-letter code for your destination, and then you await your journey in a lounge dotted with display cases and detailed curiosities that tie into the three experiences.
Alien Zoo is live now
A Jurassic Park-like tour of a Pandora-esque planet opens on a plain with ponderous, horse-like creatures, and its resemblance to the dinosaur blockbuster—down to a dramatic “Welcome… to Alien Zoo” greeting—is no coincidence. “Stephen Spielberg is an investor in this,” says Parkes. “We used to talk about how smart he was that at that first time you saw dinosaurs [in Jurassic Park] all you heard was [Richard] Attenborough say, ‘Welcome… to Jurassic Park.’ And you’re just going, oh my lord, there are dinosaurs here. So we in fact originally had more things you did in the beginning of Alien Zoo, and it distracted people from the sheer wonder of buying into the reality.”
You rarely shuffle more than a few inches at a time on Alien Zoo’s virtual, hovering platform, yet the world feels vast, limitless and full of possibilities. You can pet a tame otherworldly equine, and we mean literally pet: Reach out to the virtual creature with your real-life hand and also you’ll come into contact with the soft touch of its snout. When a playful frog-cat nudges a ball your way, you can astonishingly reach down to grip a ball and throw it back at it. And wielding a flashlight you pick up inside a luminescent cave feels good; pointing its conical glow onto darkened rock walls is like a virtual equivalent of popping bubble wrap.