Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crash Bandicoot characters that never were

As the first Crash game was being developed during the Willy the Wombat days in 1995 several characters were created that never made it. Except for the shark design they were changed from being unique individuals to plain animals as was the case with the hyena I posted two days ago. Here are some of those characters from the primal Crash period. This is the first time these sketches have been published. Until now they've been unseen. They include a resort alligator, a thugged out monkey, a shark and a racing lizard.





34 comments:

Pat Caldora said...

This is an amazing site to see Charles! Another batch from the Crash archives!

Oh, and the thing with the shark. ND told us on their site that it was programmed for Crash 1 but was removed. It did made a comeback as an enemy in the underwater levels in Crash 3 in 1998.

Hey Charles, when can we see some more development of the first characters (i.e. NBrio, Koala Kong, Ripper Roo and Crash himself)?

But still, I love the designs of these unmade characters!

Charles Z said...

Thank you Pat.

Sure, I'll be happy to show what I've got. There isn't much development work for the characters you mentioned. Reason being is that Joe Pearson was coming up with crude concept sketches that ND signed off on without exploration. My role on those characters was to take the designs and make them functional for animation and enhance their appeal.

The original development work that I did for Crash I published online a few years ago on AnimationNation. I'll find the files and post them here.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

AMAZING! I love the crocodile, he is so funny looking! Why Universal, why you take Crash away from Naughty Dog, they knew what to do with the franchise unlike other developers that helped Crash to be forgotten!
The lizard is inspired by the real lizard (clamidosaurus) that can run real fast?

Pat Caldora said...

@ Charles Great to hear!

Hope to see more!

Charles Z said...

Gabriele, the lizard character might be based upon what you mentioned. Also, when it comes to Universal and Naughty Dog, I don't know much about their relationship, but I think they didn't leave entirely on the best of terms. ND had a contract to produce 3 games and they actually did 4. My feeling is that they wanted to break away on their own and do something else. That's when they began with the project that became Jak and Daxter.

Pat Caldora said...

I think if ND still made Crash games, they would've become stale and not as great as the classics.

I'm very happy that other studios like Traveller's Tales, Radical Entertainment, and Vicarious Visions took the torch and made it in their own style and tried to make the series relevant again.

Hey Charles, after CTR was completed, did ND had talks of doing another Crash game or they went straight towards Jak?

S.C said...

I'd love to see ND make another Crash Game again sometime in the future.

I know they're planning on making a Jak 4 sometime soon but are they ever going to find a way to get the Bandicoot back?

Is it possible for them to buy him back from Universal Studios? :o

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

Actually in some interview Jason Rubin explained that when they decided to do something different Universal that owned the rights for the franchise didn't wanted to wait so they cahnged developers for a long time. Jason said also that he tried to buy the rights back or be involved in a future project but Universal didn't let it do it.

Charles Z said...

To Pat, after CTR ND moved from Universal to their own place in Santa Monica California. They were looking to break away from Universal and work directly with Sony. They had to come up with something at least as good as Crash and even better. They weren't having much luck as their staff wasn't there as far as intellectual property development goes. That's one of the times they sent their design crew to take classes with me. They were under pressure to create a follow up and we started talking and signed a deal.

To S.C. I don't know what activity was going on as far as purchasing Crash from Universal. Activision currently owns Crash.

To Gabriele, I don't buy everything that comes from ND. They put a lot of spin and propaganda on things and sometimes what they say just isn't entirely true. They also leave out a lot of things. For example, why didn't they show all the artwork that went into the development of Crash? Here we are 17 years after the fact and you're seeing this for the first time. I do know that when I was approached by Vicarious Visions for CNK the head of the company told me that when the assets for Crash were received from ND (assets being all the data for the Crash Bandicoot property contained on hard drives) that it was corrupted in a way that suggested it was done purposely so nobody else could use it. VV had smart people on staff who reclaimed that data and could then proceed with the project.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

Very interesting Charles. I wonder if you would like to work again with the old Naughty Dog staff and make another Crash Bandicoot game? I think of a game that starts form CTR or Crash 3 and had the Crash 3 stuff like super-moves and vehicles in a free-roaming Jak and Daxter's like style. That's something never made in the entire series, except for Twinsanity that tried but failed.

Charles Z said...

To be honest, I'd have mixed feelings about working with ND again. I haven't spoken to those guys in years. My last communication was in 2002 when I told them just how I felt about the tricks they play. Joe Pearson hasn't had communication with them since 1996 when Crash 1 came out. He took offense at what they were feeding the press about how Crash came to be. I don't blame him for feeling the way he did. I went along until after J&D when they pulled the same play. Ever heard of David Siller, the original producer of the first Crash game? He could tell you some stories too.

I'd rather do new things on my own to tell you the truth. I'd work with Andy Gavin. He was the most valuable person in the mix as he oversaw the programming and he was pretty easy going.

Sony bought the company in 2001. By 2004 I think both of the founders were gone. I'm pretty sure Jason was let go by that time.

Charles Z said...

To elaborate a little more, with where I'm at right now, I would of course welcome the opportunity to work on another Crash game regardless of past experiences. I don't find myself longing for the good old days of working with ND. I think more in terms of working with new people with perhaps some key individuals from before.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

Now Jason Rubin is president of THQ and Andy I think is working on a new book but I'm not sure. However both miss Crash like you do and see a new game with your art style and Andy and Jason programming and creativity would be a dream come true. With Crash they wanted to please everyone so maybe this is why they changed him so much during development but now that the franchise is so popular I think that they can litterally bring your drawing to life! I t would be awesome, but very difficult to do.

Pat Caldora said...

I'm with you Charles. Right after Jak 1, ND took a more edgier approach with the series and the studio a whole (i.e. language, guns, violence, etc...) and now since they're working on that zombie apocalypse game (hasn't there been enough of them already?), they lost their magic.

But I like how in CNK and Twinsanity, they still kept the dsigns of the environments, you should check'em out Charles:
http://www.crashmania.net/?menu=ts&page=art

Hey Chalres, do you have some of Joe's designs too? Also, what do you mean by "He took offense at what they were feeding the press about how Crash came to be."?

Charles Z said...

To Gabriele, the primary audience they were trying to please when the changes to Crash started happening was Sony Japan. The Japanese market was very important to ND and they did whatever they were told as far as changing the look of the character, making his nose smaller, dropping Tawna for Coco, giving Crash four fingers and a thumb instead of the classic three fingers for cartoon chracters, etc. It was all about Japan. They would make any change Japan asked for virtually without question. All of the changes were geared primarily towards pleasing Japanese sentiments. ND didn't fight this. They were happy to do whatever Sony Japan asked for.

There was also Universal and others who came along later. That's why there's several people claim to have created Crash or some other character or aspect of the game. If it came from Universal ND tended to put up resistance. If it came from Japan it was a different situation altogether.

Even at the beginning of J&D they were looking to please Sony Japan. They were showing them the development art I was doing and looking for their input. When it started coming back that SJ was liking characters that were contrary to what ND was thinking they stopped doing this.

Charles Z said...

To Pat, I have some of Joe's designs. I don't think people realize this but he did every single background concept for the original game. He also wrote the production bible for the game. He was very influential on Crash at the time when it was Willy the Wombat. Jason was partial to what Joe was doing. His style had a quirkiness that was appealing to him plus the environments were very imaginative and Joe contributed a great deal to the story. Joe's characters were troublesome for me. He wasn't a character designer and Jason went along with most everything he was coming up with. I felt that my hands were tied at one point and focused instead on trying to make his designs functional, animatable and more appealing as opposed to exploring the look of characters as would normally be done in development.

David Siller was the game's original producer and he had a lot to do with game play and creating the technical side of the environments that Joe was coming up with.

Joe broke off from ND in September 1996 when the first magazine articles came out with the release of Crash 1. In those articles Jason was quoted as saying that both Joe and I came in later to help tweak the project. He made it appear that we were something like consultants and misrepresented the profound role we both played in literally creating the property from the ground up. ND was never capable of creating their own original properties. They had to contract either me, or Joe and I to get the ball rolling. If it wasn't me or Joe, then they would've hired someone else. ND never had the capacity to create an original property without getting significant outside help.

Pat Caldora said...

So he didn't work on Crash 2, 3, or CNK?

Pat Caldora said...

Also, I can't wait to see Joe's designs!

Charles Z said...

After the magazine articles came out I called Jason and told him how I felt. What he did was not cool. He blamed it on the reporters and how they misinterpreted what he told them. There was a lot of immaturity at ND at that time and they never really grew out of it. Joe went on to other things. I maintained my relationship with ND. In Crash 2 and 3 I had a lot more freedom. I was able to work on characters like Dingodile, N Gin, N Tropy and others without having to use someone else's concepts. Plus at that time ND was on the top floor of the main high rise office complex at Universal. I had a huge room with an incredible views of the Hollywood Hills to work in on the days that I would come in. It was great fun. Those were the best times.

I hope you all appreciate the inside info you're getting. This is history that's never come out before.

Charles Z said...

To Pat, Joe didn't work on Crash 2 or 3. Neither of us worked on CTR. We hooked up again on CNK. Vicarious Visions contacted me and asked if both Joe and I would return to Crash. They wanted to get back to its essence. Since ND wasn't involved Joe returned and did a lot of great work. Both in background designs and environments and in story concepts. I was given free reign with the characters without having to design off of someone else's concepts until the end of development when their art director wanted to do some designing.

There was a stellar crew on CNK from our end of things. I was contracted through my school to do all the development art. Joe was a big part of it. He really loved Crash and knew the characters. It was great having him back. Plus we had other very talented artists working on it. A lot of art was created and none of it has been seen yet.

Charles Z said...

Neither the Crash nor Jak and Daxter franchise could have been created without ND contracting me or Joe. They didn't have the internal structure for this. The very first artists that ND hired were Joe and I. Although we weren't officially employees, we started working on Willy/Crash before they had anyone else on staff. We were the ones who got the ball rolling from the start.

Also, the idea for what would become Willy/Crash was inspired by a personal project I was doing. I included some images from it in my portfolio when I showed it at our first meeting when I was interviewed for the project. It was at that point that they started to come up with a concept that was similar to what I showed them. No matter what direction I tried to go in conceptually, they kept coming back to what was in my project in one way or another. I knew what they were doing but went along with it.

I continued to develop that project over the years and plan on doing something with it soon.

Charles Z said...

To Pat, I'll be happy to show Joe Pearson's art. I'm attempting to keep this blog dedicated to my personal art. The best way for showcasing the work of others would be to create a new blog specifically for Crash artwork. Right now it's very busy for me. I'll work towards this and in time there'll be something up.

Charles Z said...

I'm going to correct myself for the record since a lot of people will likely read what I'm posting here and I want to be as accurate as possible.

ND did have the capacity to create original properties. They had some titles before Crash. But for them to create original properties based upon marquee characters, high profile character driven projects, they needed Joe and I.

Also, I mentioned that Joe wrote the production bible for Willy/Crash. I should say that David Siller contributed in large part to this material as well in terms of technical sketches and diagrams.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

In this article in his blog Andy Gavin talks about the concept of the project Willy/Crash. There is a series of articles in his blog in which he describes all the histopry behind the first game, obviously he never explain exactly the relationship with you or Joe, your story is the explanation of that relationship. I think he also have some drawing of a strange Cortex with no hairs and glasses, and also drawings fo the islands, the levels and even a power up for Crash which make im shoot snowballs. I have everithing on my computer, ig you want I can send this pictures to you. Another question now: What from your idea of Crash was chaged to do this model: http://mascherato.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/crash_bandicoot_crash_bandicoot-s250x304-24499-580.jpg ? (I hope the question is clear)

Pat Caldora said...

I believe that was the model used for the GBA games from VV for the cutscenes.

Hey Charles, did Universal had plans for a Crash Saturday Morning cartoon and if they did, did you take part of it?

Also, I read on the old ND site that UCS (Universal Cartoon Studios) took part of help designing Crash's world, is that true?

Charles Z said...

That picture of Crash is the original modeled character for PlayStation 1. They had a 500 polygon limit for the characters back then and the design of Crash on the actual game had to be simple and graphic with very basic shapes. This was heavily art directed by Jason. It's pretty much the Crash that we had established through the development drawings adapted to the technology of the game.

I didn't have much contact with Andy in areas concerning development. When we talked it was mostly light hearted cordial stuff. Jason and later on Mark Cerny and Bob Rafei were the ones I worked with. I can't speak for Andy, I can only relate to what I was directly involved with which didn't involve much interaction between Andy and I. When I relate my experiences it's from my end of things.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

Thanks for the explanations, and I'm absolutely with Pat: A Crash Bandicoot Cartoon in the style of Looney Tunes or Animaniacs would be awesome! This idea should be submitted to Universal, maybe they can make Crash more popular and sell more if they do a cartoon just like the Sonic and Mario ones. And it shouldn' t be in 3D! I want you to draw the cartoon and Joe for the backgrounds.

Charles Z said...

I correct myself, it may not be the original model of Crash. I looked at the original Willy model and it's different. Primarily the eyebrows are bigger and the nose looks smaller on this one. This is an early game model in any case. It's close to the very first original modeled image of Crash.

I heard at one point that Universal wanted to do a Saturday morning cartoon. I'm not sure what was going on with it. They didn't strike me as being able to develop what they had into something beyond the video game and some toys and dolls. I met with the president of Universal Interactive towards the end of ND's time with them and we talked about developing characters for new games. The executive was a typical Hollywood lame brain. Really didn't know what he was doing. He didn't last long. Universal went through a lot of presidents for their interactive division. I don't think they were competent enough to adapt what they had to TV or anything else.

As far as Universal taking part in the development of Crash's world, I don't know where that comes from. They had nothing to do with it. Universal's only creative participation was in lining up ND with Joe Pearson and then Joe came to me. My company was used for the deal. Joe was working on something else at the time. He brought the ND Universal Interactive project my way, his project didn't pan out so he came back to this project and was involved from the very beginning. Universal had nothing to do with it creatively aside from producer David Siller who was on staff with them and he was coming up with technical schematics of the environments. This was Universal Interactive and not Universal Cartoon Studios. After their initial deal in 1995 with Universal, someone, either ND or Universal Interactive went to UCS for help and UCS went to Joe Pearson. He wasn't an employee of UCS at the time. Joe and I both worked on Will/Crash as contractors.

The original production bible, the actual material that was used and all of the artwork created for Willy/Crash came from Joe and I along with David Siller's schematics and graphs of the environments. There was nothing else except for a crude marker rendering that someone did to color one of Joe's background concept designs. Whatever else was done, if anything, was not brought to our attention. I'm not aware of anything Universal Cartoons Studios was doing if anything. They weren't creatively involved in any aspect of the origin of Crash that I know of and there's no artwork I know of besides what Joe and I were doing and David Siller's work. If there was then none of it was in the production bible and none of it has ever been shown to me. Joe designed all the environments for the very first Crash game.

Charles Z said...

To Gabriele, yes I think it would be great to see Crash go in the direction of Looney Tunes. That was the idea at the beginning. Although I think the long road he's been on and all the different interpretations have added to his mystique, returning to the thinking of a classic animated character would be good for him. That's the way I like to draw Crash. Part of what makes him appealing is how varied his look has become over time but I think he should be coming home and getting back to his roots.

Phew!!! That was a lot of typing! Thanks for your interest guys. Hope this helps with a bigger picture on things.

Gabriele Fiasconaro said...

I doesn' t have any words except for Thank You for all this! From wath you said in the last post I understood that you think that Crash should return to it's original style, so if you were involved in a cartoon do you think you would draw your own version of Crash maybe a more similar look to Willy the Wombat) or you would recreate the characters like they were in the original three games you worked on? (CNK doesn't count because there character is different from the original look)

Charles Z said...

In answer to your question Gabriele, I think I would spend some time exploring variations on the original Crash and other characters. If I were to rework the design completely I'd probably apply the effort towards developing new characters for the franchise.

Also, I want to mention that I think ND is a great game developing company and that Crash couldn't have experienced the success it's had without them doing a fantastic job. Both for Crash and for J&D. It's unfortunate things worked out the way they did but those things happen. I'd like to see Crash revived once again, whether or not I was involved. I'm hopeful that will be the case. Crash has great fans and you guys deserve something new.

Kaizer Allen said...

Charles, do you have Twitter or anything? I can't seem to find it. If ever, please send me a tweet at http://www.twitter.com/KaizerAllen. I'm so glad to see all of these artworks and I'm so sorry to hear about how things went/worked out back then. I was always amazed at Crash's artwork and I'm so happy that after 16 years, here I am, having an opportunity to talk with you.

Actually, I'm in my first year in college and I'm taking Computer Science, hoping that one day, I will be able to work on a Crash game - of course with you, Joe Pearson and Mutato Muzika. And Naughty Dog, too. Dreaming is free, right? ;)

Have a nice day!

Charles Z said...

Hi Kaiser. Thanks for your comment. Not on Twitter on a personal level at this time. That may change, we'll see. Happy to share this art with Crash fans. You guys are great. There's more on the way. Good luck and best wishes with your education and a bright future. Cheers!

Crashbandicoot65 said...

Very good arts