Alejandro Davila is a VR/AR Producer at CONICAL Interactive Studios in Auckland. In 2016, he was nominated finalist ‘Young New Zealand Innovator of the Year’ after making New Zealand’s first Virtual Reality movie, leading to a ripple effect across the country as a pioneer in VR/AR storytelling. Alejandro talks to NZ Booklovers about The Green Fairy.
Tell us a little about The Green Fairy.
How you ever wondered why the traffic lights glow? Parents tell me that after their kids engage with The Green Fairy story, that they begin to wave at the traffic lights when getting dropped off at school in the mornings. Our team at Conical - Interactive Studios in Auckland specialises in Augmented Reality technologies for the family entertainment market and has illustrated, developed and animated the book. Conical has partnered up with Duckling Publishing, who has printed and released the book to various bookstores nationwide.
What inspired you to write this book?
I originally got the idea many years ago when I was studying for my drivers license. I failed to pass the test at first because I was too distracted coming up with stories as my imagination wandered away thinking about the traffic lights. I thought for a moment that there could be a secret fantasy world of fairies who light them up, but we just didn't know about them. I kept the concept simple: fairies glow, traffic lights glow, why don't they settle in and live there? For the record, I eventually managed to get my drivers license.
What was the process working with the illustrator?
After coming up with the outline of the story in basic plot points, I then storyboarded the key dramatic moments and handed them over to the artist, Vittorio Suhendro. He then took over the production of the book and carefully selected the concept drawings that represented each story beat. Vittorio was able to quickly create concepts in the computer, using a Wacom tablet and painting digitally using Photoshop. Vittorio is a Kiwi artist of Indonesian heritage who has not only illustrated the book, but has an extensive background in illustration and art design for the Film & TV industry. You can tell that he's put his heart into the illustrations as he does with all his work. I found it interesting how he broke down the story beats in different colour boards, taking the reader through a journey of bright warm colours setting the mood and feel, and as the story progressed, he chose a colder palette and eventually brightening things up at the end. There's a lot of thought that goes behind each stroke, from the lighting, to design and the pastel feel of the illustrations.
This is an augmented reality book – can you explain for people who don’t know what this is how it works?
I love Augmented Reality, I have always been fascinated with combining our physical reality, with the magic of computer animation. In a nutshell, you hold your mobile device up and look at your physical reality with the phone camera, but the moment you point your device at the book (which works like a QR code), the computer animated fairy appears superimposed on the page.
How long did the augmented reality book take to develop?
The app development ( including Augmented Reality) took six weeks full time, as with most apps we develop at Conical - Interactive Studios in Auckland. After writing the book, we rehearsed the performance with the talented Jennifer Spellman who plays the Green Fairy, along with Maya Tuttle who does the voice. We recorded Jennifer's graceful movements in the Motion Capture studio at AUT, which means that when you play the app, that's a real person's movements driving the fairy character.
Why did you decide to make this an augmented reality book?
As a kid, my dream was being able to live and interact with cartoon characters. Now that immersive technologies are becoming ubiquitous, this is possible and we're making it happen with The Green Fairy book! I wanted a fairy to be able to read me a story and with this technology, kids can learn and be encouraged in reading more books!
What are the key themes you would like readers to take away with them after experiencing The Green Fairy?
I came to New Zealand as an immigrant at the age of 17 on my own, and for the past 13 years, I have been trying to find my place in the world and see where I fit in. The core message of the book is to learn that it's OK to be different as you try to fit in. Inside each of us we have something very special that makes us unique, all we have to do is harvest that aspect of ourselves that makes us unique and convert it into a feature. The Green Fairy goes through a journey where she isn't aware about being different to other fairies, as she's the only green fairy in the world. As she fails to fit in, trying to glow yellow at the street lamps, she later learns that her true power is to be able to glow green and be herself, hence she finds her place in the world glowing as the green light of the traffic lights.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this delightful picture book?
I really enjoyed the writing process, trying to decipher why the Green Fairy ended up living at the traffic lights. In a way, my approach was to start writing with the end in mind and worked my way back to the beginning. I also enjoyed directing the performance of Jennifer Spellman in the rehearsals, that brought the charm and X factor into the story.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I love seeing the expression on kids faces when they discover the Green Fairy appearing in the page in Augmented Reality and to all of us at Conical, that is when we truly celebrate. Duckling Publishing is putting together a book launch in October for the book, we're all looking forward to it.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
"The Power of Myth" - Joseph Campbell. I read this book almost once a year. This book has inspired me to create a modern day fairy-tale, a new mythology; where we can use metaphors to engage readers with a theme and messages that stays with them after reading the book. I feel passionate about capturing the imagination of families around New Zealand to re-imagine our modern urban world as a place of magic and wonder, with the goal of stimulating our children's imagination.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
Conical, our interactive studio has enjoyed working on the book so much, that we are open for business to invite other writers to bring their books to life using the magic of Augmented Reality. Download the Green Fairy app now and learn about the Green Fairy episodes on HEIHEI, the Virtual Reality movie and more! For more information, visit us at www.conical.nz and remember to like the Green Fairy's page: www.facebook.com/GreenFairyGO