“3-2-1 Penguins” Character Designs

This past Saturday morning NBC aired another episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! which I had the pleasure of working on. There were only two characters who needed to be designed, Admiral Sowmaster and his assistant, Cash. Both were to be pig-like aliens.

Here’s an early rough concept. The Admiral is on the left.

After turning in the first concept I received some very helpful feedback and sketches from episode director Tom Bancroft. He suggested that we switch the size of the characters and make the Admiral the short one. He also wanted to model the Admiral after actor Edward G. Robinson. The face on my sketch is really just a cleaned-up version of a sketch Tom did based on old photos of Robinson.

3-2-1 Penguins! airs Saturday mornings on NBC. Check your local listings.

“3-2-1 Penguins!” Character Designs (part 2)

Continuing yesterday’s post…I also designed a future version of Zidgel, the ship’s captain. He’s big on vanity and low on brains. As an old man, er…penguin, at first he appears to have retained his youth and vigor. Then, through a series of gags we find that he is actually wearing a truss, false teeth, and a toupe. It was a lot of fun to design both versions.




Finally, there’s Kevin. In this episode the malfunctioning time machine has a reverse effect on him. Instead of growing older, Kevin actually regresses to a young penguin and eventually an egg:



There was one last misc. alien character I designed for a brief “talking heads” scene on the ship’s monitor. Here’s the turnarounds and an expressions chart:



“3-2-1 Penguins!” Character Designs (part 1)


On Saturday NBC aired another episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! for which I did some character designs. The plot centered around a malfunctioning time machine that sends the penguins’ space ship into the future where they meet their future selves. (The lesson for kids was about respecting the advice of our elders.)

The original penguins were designed several years ago when the series premiered on DVD. I don’t know who came up with the original designs, but I’ve always admired them. The characters have great personality, contrast, and appeal. It was a real treat to take three of the four characters and create an elderly version of each one. Here’s the first two:





I was also asked to design a generic alien character, a veeery old war-weary soldier. The director suggested he have three eyes and one of them be covered with an eye patch. The character only has a couple of scenes (no dialogue), and while he is held up as someone for the kids to revere he’s also played as a comic character. I wanted the design that was both respectable and a little silly:


I did a lot of art for this episode, so more will be posted tomorrow.

“3-2-1 Penguins!” Character Designs

On Saturday NBC aired another episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! which I did some character design work for. This was a funny episode (directed by Tom Bancroft) with a lesson about the importance of inner beauty and character as opposed to vanity.


One of the characters I was asked to design was a cheezy George Hamilton-type alien with his own line of hair and beauty products.


Another character was a beauty products saleswoman alien who’d had too much plastic surgery.


Here’s some concepts of one of the characters covered in Avacado Hair Cream (he’s normally brown).


And finally, a gag “photo” I illustrated of the mom of one of the caracters. I basically just added hair and glasses to one of the main characters.

3-2-1 Penguins! airs Saturday mornings on NBC. Check your local listings.

“3-2-1 Penguins!” Character and Concept Art




On Saturday morning NBC aired another brand-new episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! for which I had done some concept work. This epsiode was directed by Rob Corley over at FunnyPages Productions (check out their blog).

The character art needed for this episode was pretty light and straight-forward. The only new characters were a race of tiny ear-people who spoke in Munchkin-like jibberish. My instructions were to take a human ear and add cartoon arms and legs. Like I said, pretty straight-forward.

The only other concept art they needed from me were some party hats for the Penguins to wear in a birthday scene, and a sketch of the twins and Grandmum after being splattered by an exploding cake. One of the running gags of the show is that you never see Grandmum’s face. It is either out-of-frame, or strategically covered by a well-placed prop. So I left her headless in the sketch, knowing it wouldn’t matter. (Although they did send me a turn-around model of Grandmum for reference, and yes she does actually have a face. I’ve seen it!)

3-2-1 Penguins! is a science-fiction comedy from the creators of VeggieTales. It airs Saturday mornings on NBC.

“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.