He might not approve because it wasn’t made in the U.S.A. but before he moves in Friday, Donald Trump can take a virtual tour of the White House thanks to two Montrealers.
This official White House photo shows President Barack Obama wearing headset, watching a virtual reality film made by Félix & Paul Studios of Montreal. The film: Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America's National Parks | WHITE HOUSE
For a full 3D experience of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he could slip on a virtual-reality headset.
The 360-degree video – viewed almost 4 million times since it was posted on Facebook Friday – is the work of Félix & Paul Studios, a pioneering Montreal company that’s turning heads in Hollywood.
Co-founders Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël spent five days at the White House in November and December filming President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama giving a guided tour of nine areas of the building, from the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the Old Family Dining Room.
“It’s such an historic place, sometimes you feel like you’re walking into a museum where so much history has been made,” Lajeunesse told the Montreal Gazette on Wednesday. “But it’s also a working environment, a lot of important things are happening there every day. And it’s also a house where people live.”
After moving in eight years ago, the Obamas opened new areas of the house to the public and lifted a ban on visitors taking photos on White House tours.
The Félix & Paul video, titled The People’s House, was also sparked by the Obama’s desire to “really expand access to the iconic institution for the American people,” Lajeunesse said.
Sitting in the Oval Office, Barack Obama said he wants “as many people as possible (to) come in and appreciate the place where Lincoln, FDR, or Reagan made the decisions that helped to shape America.” As he speaks, viewers can click and drag to check out the rest of his office.
The video is a preview of the full, 20-minute virtual-reality experience, due later this year.
The project – a collaboration between Félix & Paul, the White House and Oculus, Facebook’s virtual-reality division – was spurred on by the success of another Félix & Paul virtual-reality experience starring the Obamas.
Unveiled last summer, Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks is a 3D virtual-reality experience that captures Barack Obama visiting Yosemite National Park in California.
“The project was successful and it triggered a lot of positive momentum inside the White House to create another VR piece focusing on the White House itself,” Lajeunesse said.
Félix Lajeunesse (right) and Paul Raphaël work on one of their cinematic virtual reality experiences at their Félix & Paul Studios in Old Montreal in 2015. JOHN KENNEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Félix & Paul had a busy 2016.
In May, the company won a Daytime Emmy Award for a virtual reality experience – Inside the Box of Kurios – that it created and produced with Cirque du Soleil Média.
A month later, Félix & Paul raised $6.8 million U.S. in funding from a group of investors that includes Comcast Ventures, an arm of the giant media company behind NBC and Universal Pictures.
And in December, it signed a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to develop virtual reality experiences. It had worked with the company in 2015 to create a three-minute “companion VR experience” for Wild, the film starring Reese Witherspoon.
At the Sundance Film Festival, which starts Thursday, the company will unveil another project – Miyubi, a 40-minute virtual-reality movie about a toy robot. It’s a collaboration with Funny or Die, a company co-founded by actor Will Ferrell.
Forty other projects are in development, Lajeunesse said.
Founded in 2013 with three employees, Félix & Paul now has a staff of 50 people at its Old Montreal headquarters and an office in Los Angeles.
Lajeunesse said he’s buoyed by the interest in the Yosemite and White House projects.
“Virtual reality and 360 video are still very new today and they still managed to get many millions of views in just a few days,” he said. “That’s pretty encouraging for the future.”