“3-2-1 Penguins!” Photo Illustrations

For the most recent episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! (titled “Pratical Hoax” and directed by Tom Bancroft), the script called for photographs to appear in various scenes. Since the show is built and animated in 3D, and since each photo would only be seen on screen for a few seconds, and since television deadlines are so brutal, rather than to build the characters and backgrounds in the computer the best solution was for me to just illustrate the photos. Since this is a cartoon show with wacky humor, we could get away with cartoony illustrations rather than realistic 3D images.

Television production is pretty fast-paced so I had to crank them out quickly. To help them feel more like photographs I experimented with a new technique. I avoided outlining anything. Instead I drew each shape in Photoshop with the path tool , selected it with the magic wand tool, and then on a separate layer I threw in some flat color. Once I was satisfied with the overall tonal balance of the colors I used the airbrush tool to paint in the shading and highlights on yet another layer.


This “photo” was projected on the ship’s monitor screen for a gag about a peace treaty between a planet inhabited by dogs and tennis ball aliens. In hindsight I wish I’d have made the sling and bandages a little darker and less washed-out.




In this episode the main characters fill in as substitute teachers at “The Academy”, which is their old high school/college. Since the show takes place in outer space, the student body is composed of various aliens (lifted from past episodes of Penguins). In one scene the camera pans a series of framed photos showing Captain Zidgel as a young cadet. I illustrated the above “photos” as part of that series.


Finally, we also see some photos of the villain, Bert the Hamster, during his days as a young cadet. Here he is posing with an early version of his invention, the Galeezel (a device used throughout the series to shrink and enlarge things). The idea was to show an early version of the device using 1980’s-era technology. Looking at it now, I should have made the tabletop a darker color so that Bert’s feet and the computer would stand out a bit more.