Official SelectionAnnecy International Animation Film Festival, Annecy, France (2020)
Official Selection Mutek - XR Salon (2020)
Official SelectionOttawa International Animation Festival, Ottawa, Canada - VR Competition (2020)
Official Selection Spark Animation Festival (2020)
Official SelectionFantoche - International Animation Film Festival, Baden, Switzerland (2020)
Official SelectionGeneva International Film Festival, Geneva, Switzerland (2020)
Official SelectionBucheon International Animation Festival (BIAF), Bucheon, South Korea (2021)
Innovation AwardSAT Fest, Montreal (2022)
Best Immersive Experience - FictionCanadian Screen Awards (2023)
Nature is wondrous and clever. As Darwin taught us, those who improvise most effectively prevail. There are species who under threat revert to earlier forms, others who cultivate parasitic relationships with neighbouring beings, while the most inventive ones transform their bodies to mimic and seduce unsuspecting companions. The Orchid and the Bee is an expressionistic VR ode to life’s struggle for existence, explored through a chain of genetic love affairs.
Nature craves balance and is capable of just about anything to achieve it. When under threat, adult immortal jellyfish revert to a sexually immature polyp form, restarting their life cycle through the process of transdifferentiation. Bee orchids, meanwhile, have evolved their lip to resemble the abdomen of the female bee, and release a bouquet of sex pheromones to trick the male bee into making love and therefore pollinating the flower. As for humans and pigs, the relationship has become far more sinister—from genetic modification to extreme factory farming, and all for the love of bacon.
This never-ending cycle of growth, disintegration and transformation is constantly unfolding all around us, although the process is not always observable. Nor is it always what we expect it to be. But what if we could get a cell’s eye view of this evolutionary dance of give and take? Would we perceive it as a sterile series of steps, or as messy mayhem?
Flowing freely between unsettling disembodiment and empowering creation to offer an uplifting vision of our evolutionary future, The Orchid and the Bee is an expressionistic VR ode to life’s struggle for existence, explored through a chain of genetic love affairs.
Interdisciplinary artist Frances Adair Mckenzie brings her mischievous sense of play to the realm of virtual reality by combining the tactile materiality of old-school stop-motion animation and stereoscopy with cutting-edge technology. The result is a beautifully crafted five-minute immersion into a reimagined primordial soup of life—where the survivors are not the strongest or most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.
The Orchid and the Bee is a five-minute virtual reality experience that blends the old with the new. At its core, it’s classic old-school stop-motion animation using plasteline-moulded puppets manipulated on motorized physical 3D plexiglass sets. Scenes were shot using a 42.4-megapixel DSLR camera mounted on a motion-controlled slider to create a 3D stereoscopic effect that mimics what the eyes would see naturally. All elements were then integrated into VR using Nuke node-based digital-compositing software to place the viewer within this rotating spiral of 8K, high-dynamic range (HDR) animated images playing at 60 frames per second. The piece has spatialized second-order ambisonic sound design for an enhanced immersive audio experience. The Orchid and the Bee is best enjoyed when viewed while standing up but also works when users are seated. At launch time, it has been optimized for playback on Oculus Quest, with the hope that a higher resolution and HDR-capable VR headset will become available for future release.
Adair Mckenzie’s team includes animators Brandon Blommaert and Elise Simard, stereoscopy and compositing wizard Fred Casia, and the NFB’s in-house technical director, Eloi Champagne. The Orchid and the Bee was produced by Jelena Popović and executive-produced by Michael Fukushima at the NFB’s Animation Studio. Sound design by Catherine Van Der Donckt, and original music by Jennifer Castle.
Written and Directed by
Frances Adair Mckenzie
Based on the idea by
Frances Adair Mckenzie, Michael Juretic & Luka Sanader
Design + Animation
Frances Adair McKenzie
Compositing and Stereoscopy
Frances Adair Mckenzie
Frances Adair Mckenzie
Set Dressing Assistant
Maquette – Maya
© 2019 National Film Board of Canada –
Office national du film du Canada (SOCAN)
Catherine Van Der Donckt
Immersive Sound Design
Foley and Music Recording
Titles and Credits
Rosalina Di Sario
Senior Production Coordinator
THE ORCHID AND THE BEE
Produced by the National Film Board of Canada