Classic holiday tale the latest to get the digital immersion treatment as trend grows
Digital immersive experiences have been growing in popularity in recent years.
In the summer of 2021, the Beyond Van Gogh immersive experience took over the BMO Centre on the Stampede grounds.
It was a show unlike anything many visitors had ever seen before.
Several of the artist’s most famous pieces came to life on the floor and walls, the colourful brush strokes swirling and blending before your eyes thanks to state-of-the-art projection technology.
Calgary is one of dozens of cities across the world to host Beyond Van Gogh, with millions of people taking it in.
Immersive experiences galore
Paquin Entertainment Group produced Beyond Van Gogh, and plans to continue its success and bring Beyond Monet to Calgary, with dates still to be determined.
Other immersive exhibitions produced by Paquin include Beyond King Tut, Dinosaur Discoveries, and Marvel Avengers Station: Evolution.
Currently, Paquin has teamed up with Lighthouse Immersive to co-produce The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle.
The show—created by Storywall Entertainment—debuted in Toronto last year and this Christmas it has expanded to cities across North America, including Calgary.
Giving a classic tale new life
The Immersive Nutcracker: A Winter Miracle gives the classic story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and the ballet by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky new life with modern technologies and special effects.
“It’s a traditional story that everyone knows really well and they [the creators] are able to bring the audience right into the adventure,” says Sheri Rowe, director of operations for Paquin Entertainment.
Rowe says the show blends animation with live-action actors and ballet dancers.
The story is projected onto the walls and ceiling, making attendees feel like they are inside the digital world at times.
Engaging the audience
It took about a week to set The Immersive Nutcracker up at the BMO Centre.
Walls are constructed to display 500,000 cubic feet of digital projection technology and several photo opportunities have also been put up.
“We take some of the magical scenes from inside the show—the candy land and the entrance to the castle and the outdoor winter scene—and create fun backdrops so families can take fun photos that they’ll have as a little festive holiday takeaway,” Rowe says.
The show is family-friendly, indoors, and accessible with plenty of space and benches to take in the approximately 30-minute-long condensed story.
Growing in popularity
Rowe believes immersive experiences are a growing trend because of the endless possibilities.
“You’re able to do so much with the show. The technology is ever-advancing, and projection mapping is really fun. You’re able to be very, very creative [and] bring things to life in a different way,” she says.
With The Immersive Nutcracker, in particular, kids can experience a classic holiday tradition outside of a theatre setting where they would have to sit still and be quiet.
“I’m sure they’re used to having to sit in a chair in a stuffy theatre and watch the ballet from start to finish,” Rowe says.
“Whereas in this one, they can be in the ballet. There’s lots of space inside the immersive room. They can do their pirouettes and grand jetés along with Marie and the Nutcracker prince.”
Jumping on the bandwagon
Telus Spark jumped on the immersive experience bandwagon last year when it became the first science centre in Canada to have a permanent digital immersion gallery.
Goodnight Moon is the gallery’s third installment, and is on now until February.
Chief experience officer Roderick Tate says the digital immersion gallery gives Telus Spark another platform to share information about science, which is all around us.
“Millions and millions of pixels coming to life, dancing in front of your eyes in an immersive environment that you can actually interact with, you know, that’s cutting-edge technology and that’s science in itself,” Tate says.
“And then you get to layer on that storytelling element, which attracts people of all ages, all walks of life to come.”
No slowing down
Tate is looking forward to the gallery’s fourth installment in March 2023—an Indigenous superhero story called Sacred Defenders of the Universe.
More information about the installment is expected in January.
The Immersive Nutcracker runs until Dec. 28.
And with Beyond Monet in the works, it appears the immersive experience trend won’t be slowing down in Calgary any time soon.