Snark Rocket Studios

Happy Awesome Jimmy Chow Artwork

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The Kung Fu Jimmy Chow character design has evolved significantly over the past year. Check out the happy awesome evolution of Jimmy below the fold.

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This is the first drawing of Jimmy by me (Bob Cesca). I drew this for another anime show, but pulled it out of the archive as the starting point for Jimmy and handed it off to Elia Filippone, who expanded it into this:

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Initially, the idea was to feed off the style of Leiji Matsumoto -- one of my favorite manga and anime artists, and the creator of Star Blazers and Captain Herlock. But John Plummer, co-creator of the show with me, felt that it was too futuristic. I agreed, even though the jump suit was my idea. So Elia reconstructed Jimmy as a little older and leaner with contemporary clothing.

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In the above art, notice the holdover Matsumoto influence in the HUGE comb-over hair. Also this is the first appearance of the knee-length shorts and the neck tie; the former was John Plummer's idea and the latter was mine. Satisfied with the basic design, Elia jumped into an ink & paint pass:

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The basic colors (seen above) have remained a part of the Jimmy design. However, both Elia and I struggled to really nail the authentic anime look. This looks like anime but... not quite. We never captured that spark. So we brought in an actual anime veteran artist to run with the design. Enter Glenn Andrean. At this point, we also decided to spruce up Jimmy's clothing and gear. Glenn's first rough pass:

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And Jimmy's wicked hair:

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On most of Glenn's A-or-B options, my direction was invariably: "Can you combine the two?" That, along with a clean-up inking pass, Glenn gave us this:

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While all of the artwork was being nailed down, the initial stories were being worked out by John and I in script outline and storyboard form. The problem: how do we animate all of the action we wanted while finishing episodes in two weeks on a modest budget. That's where Floyd Bishop entered the scene. Working the show in CG would allow us to move the characters in ways which would require insane amounts of in-betweens in a 2D environment. The delivery would still be really, really tight, but the action and dynamic camera movement we wanted could remain intact.

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Above, Floyd's in-progress Maya contruction of the Jimmy model. Note the bare torso in preparation for the pilot episode Purple Nurple scene.

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Cel-shading (or Toon-shading) of CG models first broke onto the scene with Futurama's various space ships as well as Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars shorts. Prior to that, and going all the way back to Star Blazers (Space Battleship Yamato), anime studios often rendered CG models of vehicles and ships, then rotoscoped them by hand. In the case of Star Blazers, the models were the crude vector models of the early 1970s.

But the anime movie Appleseed was one of the first to apply cel-shading to characters in an anime universe. The above art is the first toon-shading pass at the Jimmy model. The shading was great, but the model seemed too short and stumpy compared to Glenn's final concept art. Floyd made some quick adjustments and the animation was underway. The idea was always to make the animation look hand-drawn -- or as close as possible -- without all the super-smooth floaty animation seen in most CG animation. So I directed the animators to employ a lot of holds and to create the animation at 15 frames-per-second to achieve a less fluid look. Here's a couple of phenomenal stills from the pilot:

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Joel and Tom Moser, who we brought in to animate the series, have tweaked out the process to include hand-held camera movement; more dynamic poses; and hand-drawn Flash blood effects.

More artwork coming soon.

-Bob