“3-2-1 Penguins!” Character Designs

On Saturday morning NBC aired another episode of “3-2-1 Penguins!” which I was fortunate enough to work on. For much of the series my job was to design various aliens which the Penguins would encounter as they hopped from planet to planet. If the script called for a prop or gag that would change a character’s appearance, it was also my job to do a concept sketch and/or turnaround drawings so that the modelers and animators could replicate it correctly.

This particular episode (“Practical Hoax”) didn’t require any new characters. However, the script called for several “photographs” of various characters and it was my job to illustrate the “photos”. I’ll show you those tomorrow. In the mean time, here’s a few of the concept sketches I did for this episode:


This episode featured several practical jokes. Here Zidgel, the ships science officer, gets hit in the face with a pie.


Midgel gets stuck in some glue.


For another practical joke, someone puts guacamole in Captain Zidgel’s hair gel. I did a few sketches to experiment with how that might look.


Ultimately the director chose version A.

Tomorrow: Cartoon “photos”!

“3-2-1 Penguins!” Prop Designs

For last Saturday’s episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! I had the privilege of not only designing the misc. characters but also most of the props (over two dozen!) It was a lot of work for one episode but also a ton of fun. Here’s a sampling:

(All artwork is © copyright Big Idea. All rights reserved.)


This water pump is not really a prop, it’s more like a giant set piece. It’s also the only one I didn’t come up with entirely on my own. It’s based on a rough sketch given to me by the director.


Here’s a detail of the control panel on the side of the water pump.


Some shields for a quick gag. The ship is under attack, the Captain yells, “Raise shields!”. The clueless-but-loveable Kevin hoists these in the air. *Snicker!*


A welding mask worn by Fidgel, the ship’s science officer. The reason it sticks out so far from the front of his head is to allow room for his long beak.


Finally, a laser tag-like device that operates like a party favor. The script called for the filter to be removable.

I’d love to show more, but Big Idea owns all the artwork and they are being very generous as it is by allowing me to display this on my blog.

Don’t forget to watch 3-2-1 Penguins! Saturday mornings on NBC!

3-2-1 Penguins! Character Designs

As promised, here’s some of the character design sketches I did for last Saturday’s episode of 3-2-1 Penguins!:

(All artwork is © copyright Big Idea. All rights reserved.)


In this episode, the Penguins visited a planet inhabited by lawn flamingos and garden gnomes who were fighting each other for control of the water supply (the episode was about learning to share). These are some early concept sketches I did for the garden gnomes.


This is the final gnome design.


In one scene, the script called for the gnomes to fly around on little motorized garbage can lids. This is what we came up with.


The gnomes were imagined to be tough little guys from the Bronx. By contrast, the flamingos were upper-crust snobs reminiscent of Thurston Howell the Third. This is an early rough concept sketch.


Here’s the final design for the lead Flamingo character. The director didn’t want them to look too much like literal lawn flamingos, he wanted them to somehow look slightly alien. My wife and I were in a garden shop and we saw a goofy looking lawn ornament that had a coiled spring for a neck. So that’s what we settled on.

Tomorrow: Props!

Another Penguins Episode Airs Tomorrow


Another Episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! airs tomorrow morning on NBC. For this particular episode I designed not just the alien characters but also the various props and gadgets. I think I did more work on this episode than on any other episode during the season. And as always, it was a blast.

On Monday, after the episode has aired, I’ll post a slew of sketches and concept art from the episode.

You can watch 3-2-1 Penguins! Saturday mornings on NBC. The broadcast time varies from city to city even within the same time zone (don’t ask me why) so check your local listings. In the Minneapolis area Penguins airs at 10:30am.

EDIT: I’ve also heard that in some tv guide listings and websites, 3-2-1 Penguins is flipped with VeggieTales on the schedule. Seems to be a recurring problem, so I thought I’d better mention it. I guess nothing’s simple in the world of Saturday morning TV.

3-2-1 Penguins! Character Designs

On Saturday morning NBC aired another episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! for which I did some character design work. The episode was a lesson in gluttony, so I had to design an alien race of overweight pig-like characters. The primary character is a slobby, pizza-chomping Ambassador, but there were a few quick cuts to scenes with other misc. alien families all watching TV. In the final edit you could only see the families from behind, but they were still a lot of fun to design.penguins-gutt-turns.jpgpenguins-guttchancellor.jpgpenguins-guttfamilies.jpgIn one scene the script called for an oil painting of the Chancellor during his younger, thinner days. The schedule was tight and the budget didn’t allow for a lavish illustration so I did the best I could with the limited time I had. (Working on a TV show is like frantically laying down track in front of a moving train.) I whipped this out in Photoshop. It could definitely use more contrast and definition, but all things considered I think it turned out ok:oil-painting.jpg

Shameless Self-Promotion


As I’ve written before, I spent much of the summer and fall doing character designs for new episodes of 3-2-1 Penguins!, an animated series on NBC from the company behind VeggieTales. It’s a goofball comedy about four penguins and two kids who travel the universe ala “Star Trek”. Each week’s lesson is based on a verse from the book of Proverbs.

Tomorrow morning they will be airing another episode that I worked on. I designed the various aliens, and I also illustrated an oil painting that hangs on the wall in one scene. Big Idea owns all of the artwork I did for the show, but they have graciously allowed me to post samples on my blog after each episode airs. So look for some Penguins artwork on Monday.

You can watch 3-2-1 Penguins! Saturday mornings on NBC. The broadcast time varies from city to city even within the same time zone (don’t ask me why) so check your local listings. In the Minneapolis area Penguins airs at 10:30am.