Monkey King (aka Sun Wukong) is one of the most enduring figures in Chinese mythology, and has inspired characters like Son Goku, the main protagonist of the Dragon Ball franchise. The mythological character, who’s an anthropomorphic monkey that has the intelligence of a human and the impatient temperament of monkey, has a broad range of powers that include super strength, speed, agility and shapeshifting—that’s all on top of being the best martial arts warrior on both heaven and earth, battling humans, demons and gods.
Now, just as how the myth has been revised throughout history, Monkey King finds fresh life in the digital age, this time in virtual reality with a new series created by Digital Domain.
“Digital Domain’s Monkey King isn’t a game, but rather a visually captivating, cinematic storybook experience told in VR,” Wayne Kennedy, director of creative development at Digital Domain, told AListDaily. “Forged from 16th century Chinese mythology and brought to life through the power of VR, viewers are immersed in a world of supernatural creatures with twists and turns along the way.”
The first episode of the three-chapter series debuted digitally for PlayStation VR in July and tells an origin story that unfolds in 360 degrees around the viewer. It is the first original series from Digital Domain, which is best known as a visual effects company that developed the Incorporated VR experience to promote the Syfy TV show, in addition to a VR talk show called House of Legends for the NBA.
Monkey King is the starting point for Digital Domain’s shift to creating original content.
“To build on Digital Domain’s legacy, the studio’s first piece of original content needed to be an impressive mix of all our in-house talent and capabilities,” Kennedy said. “Upon considering many great stories, I was most inspired by a childhood favorite of mine, the fabled story of Monkey King. Our team adapted the fantastical tale with some originality and are excited to introduce the story to Western audiences. Bringing a cinematic experience to an immersive world will open up the possibilities of virtual reality to a more diverse audience.”
Discussing the company’s long-term goals with the VR series and developing original content, Kennedy said, “Digital Domain has been an innovator in the entertainment industry by creating content that fans want to consume. Monkey King is the first of many pieces of original content to leverage our in-house visual effects artistry, 360 experience and interactive technologies. Immersive storytelling is the next level of transportive experiences.”
Kennedy said the company saw an opportunity to take advantage of PlayStation VR’s platform for Monkey King’s debut.
“When considering a launch platform, we consider a variety of factors, not necessarily favoring the capabilities of one over the other,” said Kennedy. “For PlayStation, we saw an opportunity to exploit the limited available cinematic VR experiences. We love games, but we believe there is also a market for passive viewing.”
That being said, Kennedy confirmed that Monkey King will also be available on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Steam, Google Daydream and Google Cardboard later this year. “Following a very positive response to our previews of Monkey King at VR Con at the San Diego Comic-Con, we’re working closely with Sony to promote the VR experience to PlayStation VR users,” he said.
Digital Domain plans on releasing more VR stories in the future, and although they may not involve Monkey King or world mythology, audiences seem excited for animated VR TV experiences.