JHONEN VASQUEZ

MASTER OF CENTRIFUGAL BUMBLEPUPPY

The last bits from my first designs for Randy Cunningham, the Sorcerer and Heidi (at least that was her name when I designed her).  

I think it goes without saying that the Sorcerer was my favorite guy to work on.  Pretty sure he was just supposed to be some kind of old timey magician from Japan but he’s just a monster now.  Was really into the overly distorted proportions for the guy, tiny legs and arms that would most likely drag on the floor if not held up, and then there’s his crazy long neck.  Not a whole lot left of whatever human he maybe used to be.

Heidi is not a monster, so I want nothing to do with her.

One of the only peripheral characters I did for Randy Cunningham was this “band geek” that eventually gets mutated into a hulking horror.  Along with being the only side character I did for my first pass it was also the only monster.  At a later point I went back and did about 25 creature designs for later use in the show, but this band monster and the Sorcerer were the only inhuman looking things I got to do early on.  

When the Titmouse guys asked if I wanted to design this stuff I pretty much said “Monsters and robots.  That’s what I want to do.”  Doing Randy and Howard and such was fun enough, but I’m happiest when things get a bit more monstrous and robotic.

I guess, in the show, the Sorcerer has the power to transform people and things into monster versions of themselves, so this was my go at what that might result in.  Figured some common element would be this black mass that sorta operated the victim, but that was probably too bizarre for a kids’ show.  I’m not the best person to decide that!  It was pretty much your general purpose supernatural Miyazaki goo.

You can see this guy, human and monster versions, a bit in the title sequence of the show.

Here’s some concepts of villainy for Randy Cunningham -  McFist and his henchman the Viceroy.

I don’t remember the exact description I had for McFist but I knew he was  supposed to be some kind of corporate jerk, probably former military, with his defining feature being a robotic arm controlled by a fish brain.  Pretty sure it was a fish brain.  McFist I think saw the biggest changes from sketches to how he appears in the show, with concept stage McFist being a stocky block of a man.  Looks like he slimmed down in the end, but here he’s a bit more of a cybernetic monster jerk.  I can’t recall if the fish brain’s old-school arcade joystick made it into final animation, but I thought it was funny that that arm would be controlled with as simple an interface as a joystick.

Viceroy was actually one of my favorite dudes to figure out and I think he remains relatively unaltered from concept to final animated form. Described as kind of a super-genious henchman dandy, I ended up going with something inspired by Richard Ayoade’s Moss from the IT Crowd, and Sam Jackson’s Mr. Glass from unbreakable.

Here’s Randy and Howard in some of their original early sketch form.  I actually dig these versions a lot for all the differences from what people usually associate with ZIM’s designs.  Most of what I submitted on this show was a lot more rounded out and bendy, where ZIM’s earlier design was all about the angles and hard edges.  I just figured a different show should look like a different show!

I had Randy as a ginger and more of a regular looking kinda dude, and his colors in my sketches are way different than what he ended up as.  In the final product he’s got blue or purple hair, but I liked having him looking a bit more cohesive palette-wise, and a bit more normal to contrast with the crazy superthing he turns into.

Howard’s a little different as well.  In the concept stuff he’s modeled more after certain friends I had growing up,  horror movie/metal fans mixed in with a whole mess of Nick Frost and a whole lot of cargo shorts.  His final form seems to have taken on the ginger quality I originally gave my Randy designs!

For the most part, I only designed the main cast of the show, and one incidental human and the monster he turns into.  The rest of the incidentals weren’t my responsibility but the hope was that they’d follow the overall ideas given in all of my concept work with an emphasis on not going to some of the ZIM/ME design tropes like overly hard angles where a flowing line might be more attractive, or the square pupils.  Just looking at Randy’s early stuff you see there are lots of more curvy bits, the nose, the rounder eyes and the bends in the arms and legs.

Metal/horror Howard, we salute thee.

These were my first sketches of possible Ninja designs for Randy Cunningham.  I always want to go for a little more inhuman on stuff, so Randy as a Ninja in these early designs was a bit more covered up in my favorite sketches, but with the big eyes glowing or showing through so he could still be expressive enough.  My favorite is definitely the one with the orange exclamation mark-ish shape on the forehead.

What I was given was a very general description of “Looks like a ninja” so it gave me a chance to do whatever the hell I dreamed up, so the scarf thing was one of the first details that popped into my head.  It was one of those things that I can thank video games for as I was picturing the behavior of the scarf being something out of Capcom, a mix of Strider and fighting FX from street fighter.  I imagined that rather than always having to make physical contact with his rather small fists and feet, randy would sort of project his energy through the scarf which would flare out and follow the direction of his attacks.

I was also obsessed with that detail on his gloves, the orange armor bit that covers two of his fingers.  I just liked how it broke up the black and essentially looked like chopsticks.  Somewhere out there someone doesn’t like Japanese food, so that bit didn’t make the final design.  The scarf stuck, though, in a less bulky form than how I was using it, however.  

It’s an interesting job dreaming up BODIES for characters without knowing the character of the character. if that makes any sense.  Most of this stuff I did without knowing too much about what the show was going to be as I was just doing design and wasn’t involved in any of the writing or any such thing.  Weirdly enough it was part of why I agreed to it!  It was a cool change to focus on the design of an animation project, and I’m glad the Titmouse guys approached me about doing it.

Still, I think I prefer seeing something to completion and if there’s anything that makes me regret not being in charge of the final designs it’s that I can’t kill the person who hates orange chopstick armor!