Friday, June 20, 2014

Montgomery Thump - Early Presentation Art - 1985

Hey there everyone! Thanks for continuing to visit my blog while I take some time to prepare new material.

This is some art from early in the development of a personal project I was creating called "Montgomery Thump and Timbuk too." It's from way back in the summer of 1985. Living in Burbank and having a great time. I'd open the door to my apartment and friends would hang out and party while I painted. I was coming up with some ambitious stuff in those days. This was one of several works I came up with that would get lots of attention in animation and heavily influence the creative course of the industry.

The original is painted in acrylics. Did it by hand the traditional way before the advent of Photoshop or the existence of any digital illustration software. It's painted on heavy duty watercolor board and is large. About a meter in length. These images are scanned from letter sized color copies.

Here it is in its original form without the Thump logo...

This is for the Crash Bandicoot fans out there. Here's some inside info on what was in my portfolio when I was invited to meet with a couple of new guys in town who called themselves Naughty Dog. When I met them in December 1994 at Universal Studios in Hollywood, what do you think was in my book?

Take a look at the original Crash game. See any similarities in the feel, ambiance, and even a character whose face is lining the pathway?

I knew what was happening as the direction I got for Willy the Wombat was most certainly influenced by my project. I went along as I had been used to it virtually every time it was presented. Montgomery Thump impacted all who had seen it and were aware of it back then. It was a trailblazing property throughout the 1980s and beyond. Among the best kept secrets in animation from that period in time.

I'm happy to finally have the opportunity to present it unadulterated. I really appreciate the opportunity to be working on it again and to be able to share the project publicly for the first time in its long and amazing history.

You can catch up on the story by following the chapters I've posted below so far. More content on the way.

Thanks very much for checking in.


Hunter H said...

This is mind blowing beyond belief. I always like seeing early concept work of a series,looks really nice and impressive.
It does have that Crash Bandicoot style, but thats the kind of style that comes from your work. Rock on Charles Z.

Renan said...

That's really fascinating, Mr. Zembillas. I don't think us Crash and Spyro fans can thank you enough for all the historical insights you have shared with us. Keep up the great work, you've been a huge inspiration!

Matt said...

Mind blown! Can't get my head around this!

From what I see.. Timbuk is Crash(goofy, stupid) and Thump is Aku Aku(the guide and brains, smarter and knowledgeable).

The rocks below the leaves got my attention rather quickly because you see a lot of rocks in crash with eyes and mouths.


Thank you Charles!

Charles Z said...

It's not the personality traits of the characters that were the influence. They didn't know what the characters were about. You could extrapolate aspects of their behavior and project those features by extension but that's not what was picked up on.

It was the general idea of basing a game property which didn't exist on this art that did exist. As such, Australia became a theme, along with a kangaroo character, a koala bear, so on. Although those characters in Crash are very different than the lead characters in Thump, the theme and design sensibilities of the project based upon the art you see here were picked up on in the development of Willy / Crash and its primary evolution.

For instance, Aku Aku was originally a fairy or a sprite of some kind, then was abruptly changed into a voodoo mask during development upon their direction. The thematic ties to Thump were very obvious to me when it was happening and are still evident all these years later.

I kept it to myself over time reasoning that the Crash characters were different enough from what I had done so as not to infringe upon my project. Still, when I look at the painting I can't help but recall that initial meeting at Universal and the mixed feelings I had as Crash subsequently emerged.

That's not the only project influenced by Thump but it's the one that most visitors here would be aware of especially in relation to this specific art I posted.

Thanks for your comments guys.

Landon Kemp said...

Very fascinating to know, man. It's interesting to hear how this project was somehow connected to Crash Bandicoot.

Great acrylic work, by the way. Makes me wish I was better at painting in acrylics that I was when I had out-of-school art tutoring.

Speaking of Thump and Timbuk, by the way, I casually searched them up on Google, wondering if their site was up yet. Sadly, it wasn't. I did find a couple of other things, though:

1. The Facebook page for the Crash Bandicoot fan site Crash Mania mentioned this project on one of its posts. It can be found here:

2. Something from this site you apparently own called "ZIP Animation" that gives a brief description of "Montgomery Thump and Timbuck too". I take it this is something that you and a few colleagues came up with together, like an outlet for some of your own animation projects. I'm not sure if you told anyone about this site or not, but I certainly look forward to seeing more of what comes there as well.

Charles Z said...

It's also the creative driving force that led to Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, Rescuers Down Under and Thump made a cameo appearance in a Saturday morning cartoon on NBC after it was pitched to them. They went right ahead and stole the character.

That's why I love this project! There's a fabulous history behind it that few people know about.

ZIP Animation is a company I set up a few years ago to handle the production of Montgomery Thump. There's a dedicated website for the property but it's private. In the process of making it accessible to all.

Thanks for your continued interest and for the info you shared. I'm just about ready to post the next chapter.

Haris A. Devine said...

Have you been thinking into funding your project through Kickstarter and make a animated series out of it? With the reputation you got, I'm sure it would work.

Charles Z said...

Haris, yes I've been considering Kickstarter for several projects including this one.