In 1998, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin added a stick figure drawing to their company’s homepage as a fun way to let visitors know they were out of office attending the Burning Man festival in Nevada. This gave rise to the company’s famous Google Doodles, which are usually designed to honor important historical events, influential people, and holidays, and have become a mainstay for the search engine ever since.
Now, 20 years later, Google is launching its first ever Doodle in virtual reality to celebrate Georges Méliès, the French filmmaker and illusionist that some have called the “father of special effects.” Google is timing the Doodle’s launch to coincide with the release date of one of Méliès’ popular works, “À la conquête du pôle (The Conquest of the Pole),” which was released in 1912.
Google’s short film pays homage to Méliès’ legacy as a magician, filmmaker, and visual artist. The Doodle starts with Méliès setting up a camera in front of a black-and-white scene showing the moon, several stars, and a rocket ship, likely a tribute to his famous film A Trip to the Moon. Similar references are made throughout the Doodle, including a scene in which a cartoon version of Méliès emerges from a giant playing card, as he does in his film The Living Playing Cards, which was released in 1905.
Google Doodles have evolved from stationary images to videos and interactive games over the past decade, but this marks the first time Google is bringing its Doodles into VR. The project was a joint effort between Google Spotlight Stories, Google Arts & Culture, and French film organization Cinémathèque Française.
The themes for Google Doodles are usually plucked from thousands of pitches coming from both inside and outside of the company, Jonathan Shneier, an engineer on Google’s Doodle division, told TIME in 2015. The team then turns those ideas into feasible topics, with the goal of representing people of all races, genders, and ethnicities and countries from all over the globe.
Those who want to view the Google Doodle can do so through Google’s Cardboard or Daydream virtual reality viewers after downloading the company’s Spotlight Stories app. Without a headset, it’s also possible to check out the Doodle as a 360-degree video on Google’s Spotlight Stories YouTube channel.
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