Metaverse animated movie “Belle” is coming to take you to see the virtual world

Since Facebook announced its name change, everyone seems to be talking about the “metaverse .

Meanwhile, acclaimed director Mamoru Hosoda’s latest animated film “Belle,” a clever take on “Beauty and the Beast,” is set in a metaverse-like virtual world.

“Belle” Trailer (The film was created by renowned Oscar-nominated director Mamoru Hosoda and Chitsu Studio, creators of “Future,” “Wolf Children,” “Summer Wars,” and more. Video: GKIDSmovie

Director Mamoru Hosoda has long wondered what virtual worlds might mean for our relationships. For example, Digimon: Our Game of War, which he has directed, and more importantly, Summer Wars, directed in 2009, imagines a new world in which everything passes through a The separate digital realms are connected. More than a decade ago, the idea seemed outlandish. Now it feels prescient.

The internet has changed dramatically over the years, and this is evident in the movie Belle. “Belle” uses the Internet as inspiration to explore people’s dual lifestyles in real and online life, and tells the fantastic and beautiful growth story of contemporary girls in the social media era.

The heroine in the film, Suzu, is a 17-year-old ordinary high school student who lives in the countryside with her father.One day, she entered “U” – a virtual world with 5 billion users. There, she is no longer Suzu, but Belle, a world-famous singer. She also meets a mysterious “creature” and joins him on a journey of adventure, challenge, and love in her quest to become who she really is. It’s also a story about online culture, and touches on specific topics like cyberbullying.

The virtual world “U” in the movie is an almost overwhelming space filled with skyscrapers and avatars of 5 billion users. This is the kind of virtual square that Jack Dorsey (Block founder and former Twitter CEO) dreams of.

The 3-minute video below fully understands the virtual world “U” , it is very worth watching! 

For Hosoda, this is not only an opportunity to update the animation for a long time, but also an opportunity to update the vision of the future virtual world.

“Belle” opens in select IMAX theaters in the U.S. on January 12 and will be officially released on January 14.

To that end, The Verge spoke with Hosoda about the movie Belle, the evolution of Hosoda’s ideas about the internet, designing the virtual set “U”, and where the Metaverse might go.

Metaverse animated movie "Belle" is coming to take you to see the virtual world

“Belle” director Mamoru Hosoda. Photo: Stefania M. D’Alessandro/Getty Images

 Q:  This is not the first time you have done this kind of subject, what brought you back to the story about the virtual world and the Internet? ‍‍‍‍‍‍‍

I remember making movies related to the Internet going all the way back to around 2000, related to Digimon: Our Game of War. I am fascinated by the subject that in some way, shape or form, major events or phenomena that occur in this space can affect our understanding of reality in addition to our own reality.

At that time, the Internet seemed to be a very young and fashionable space for young people, and I felt that the Internet was a hope for young children to break our old values ​​and create a new world. So these ideas around the internet really appealed to me, it was exciting.

Metaverse animated movie "Belle" is coming to take you to see the virtual world

 Q: The  way the internet works has changed a lot in the past 20 years, and many things that were science fiction at the time are now becoming reality. Have you changed yourself? Are you optimistic?

Of course, the internet has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. I think one of the biggest changes or shifts is that we all interact with the internet in some way. The Internet affects our lives regardless of age or population.

Because of this, our real world, and another real world that exists in the Internet, in the past 20 years, the Internet has been closely connected with reality, and it has also brought many problems into the Internet field, such as Internet addiction, negative emotions. A lot of parents will say, “The internet sucks,” and they might take their kid’s iPad away and say, “We don’t want you to be online.”

But I believe that the Internet is not necessarily bad, but that we have brought out the more negative aspects of human beings in this field. The problem is not with the internet, but with us humans and how this anonymity changes us and changes our behavior.

I think the internet element will stay the same and the younger generation will always find a new way to use it to innovate and push the status quo. I think there is hope for the internet.

 Q:  For Belle, do you want to explore the “Beauty and the Beast” story again, or do you want to reinterpret it, does the concept of the metaverse come from here?

I’ve admired “Beauty and the Beast” stories since I was young. So I would say that the idea of ​​reinterpreting Beauty and the Beast came first. What really fascinates me about this story is that its values ​​seem to be reversed in some ways. What we think is beautiful turns out to be ugly, and what looks ugly is beautiful inside. For 30 years, I’ve wanted to interpret Beauty and the Beast. It took me 30 years to do this, but I finally did it.

Narrative in what form? I realized that the internet was very much in line with the concept of Beauty and the Beast because they both had this second dimension in a sense.

In Beauty and the Beast, the beast has a very evil and violent exterior, but is very different on the inside. Likewise, with the invention of the Internet, we as humans have our own selves in reality and our alter ego in the Internet.

Similar two-dimensionality is happening, and I think that narratives in the form of similar concepts will play a greater role.

Metaverse animated movie "Belle" is coming to take you to see the virtual world

 Q: It  took a long time to interpret it. What obstacles did you encounter during this period?

In some of my past work, I did try to explore some of the concepts from Beauty and the Beast, but Belle is what really brought it in and was a direct inspiration.

Another reason Belle took 30 years is because of change.

There are so many ways to interpret the story of Beauty and the Beast, we can go back to Disney 30 years ago, or to Jean Cocteau in 1946, or even to the original work. So much has changed in society, and I feel that explanations have to be similarly updated for different audiences and different social contexts.

To me, the definition of beauty seems very different from the original, beauty is a very specific concept.

In the Disney version 30 years ago, I think they really explored the duality of the beast. But today, I think the second dimension goes further and is very applicable to this concept of beauty, where the protagonist has to overcome certain obstacles in order to gain power and then instill that power into herself, and in many ways the way she exerts that power is itself A very beautiful sight.

 Q:  For the virtual world “U” in the movie, how did you define its appearance and function? What is your goal to enable audiences to connect real life with technology? Or want something more futuristic and sci-fi?

I think the internet has definitely changed a lot in the last 20 years, if you look at some of my earlier films, when trying to visualize what the internet concept was about, I chose a whiter background, there were a lot of color. It feels very inviting, it feels very expansive and incomplete, like it’s cutting edge. It can also be a blank canvas if you prefer. It’s not a space just for boys, it’s open to women, the younger generation, anyone who contributes.

But, as we said before, the internet has changed a lot and is closer to reality. So when thinking about how to express this, to capture it in a visual medium, we end up with what you see in the “U”, the space doesn’t necessarily have to be up or down, left or right. It’s packed with these skyscraper-like structures. Feeling a little cramped. Not as open as my previous films. It really feels like the center of the world, and it’s hard to tell where the horizon starts and ends. This is a visual translation of the contemporary internet in my eyes.

 Q:  Is this how you feel when you go online?

I’m probably not as excited as I used to be, when I search for something online, there is a feeling of discovering something new that I haven’t felt in a long time. It must have lost its sense of being a boundary, or really vast open space, and maybe the metaverse will fill that void and become the new frontier.

I do feel a little sorry for the younger generation because there won’t be many borders, and I feel like there needs to be some kind of revolution in the internet space for these generations to continue driving innovation and the status quo.

 Q:  When you look at these metaverse or virtual world concepts, the hardware and software that exists now, or some companies talking about building them in the future, under the premise of commercial drive, there is a lot of hype and things that can be bought. Well in “U” there isn’t much of that except for some sponsorships. I’m curious if this was intentional and why was it decided?

The internet is a new world in many ways, and I think it represents what a global world might look like, where language and borders don’t play such a big role anymore. The “U” is designed to really capture that sensitivity.

But in some ways, this idea of ​​a truly globalized internet space, I doubt it will ever come to pass, has to do with its commercialism. Right now, the internet is really influenced by big companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.They are global companies in many ways, but at the same time they are very Western or American companies that are managing the direction of the Internet. I do believe that we need some kind of entity, space or reality that can transcend the needs of the company.

Even within the “U”, social media icons are part of the “U” world. Various social media networks or companies are part of the platform, not part of creating it. I do believe that we need to keep leaping forward to have the globalized world we envision.

 Q:  All the companies you just talked about say “We want to build our own company”, what do you think about that?

I certainly didn’t expect Facebook to change its name during the promotion of our new movie. In some ways, I’m trying to portray something slightly distant, but what seems to be fiction is becoming a reality.

This transformation is of course very interesting because it happens in real time and the film will be broadcast around the world. I think we still have a long way to go before we can fully immerse ourselves in the virtual world. But I think the future seems to be heading in that direction. Perhaps many of the questions raised in the film will come into play as we make this shift in direction. So hopefully as we enter the next phase of the internet, we’ll interact with our audiences in new ways.

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