Friday, May 16, 2014


(unknown artist)

As any concept artist knows, 99% of what you create never makes it into production. In the worst case scenario, 100% doesn't make it. Gridsmasher was a neat project I got to work on that unfortunately got pretty far before being cancelled. A scifi kid's show that would combine live puppets with computer generated environments and effects. The premise focused on a the human hero Johnicco, who along with his alien pals, formed a team that participated in an interstellar sport called Gridsmasher. Players would compete on a constantly evolving field that could morph into all sorts of wild obstacle courses. Each team was tasked to make it to the other side of the field to a safe zone while preventing the other from doing so. Various weapons and power ups were sprinkled everywhere to make things interesting.
 Almost all of the action was designed to take place in one of two locations, the Smash Stadium where the game was played out and Smash City (above) that supported the various league teams during the off hours. Originally, I designed it to be more like just the middle of a city, but as the designs and story progressed, it became bigger and more expansive.

 You can see here that the sizes of the stadium (left) and the city (right) were very close. The director wanted a much more drastic size difference but to keep the stadium as a focal point. Consequently, we reduced the bottom structures to almost just a donut platform and the spot lights were toned back to much more ambient light.

I designed the stadium separately before the city, so for a while there were two different perspectives, but eventually it became necessary to redraw the stadium in perspective to really sell the idea. The stadium would just be this incredible ball of activity with tons of floating holograms of sponsors and game clips with all sorts of spot lights and laser shows happening on the inside. In later concepts (coming soon), you'll see the the stadium seats are actually self contained pods that transport the audience from their respective planets to the game and act as the stadium seating, hovering in place around the field.

 We went back and forth with the actual scale of the field. At first it seemed like the most epic field would be 4 times a soccer field, but it became clear quickly that it would be difficult to create a wide shot that encompassed the whole field where you could also clearly read all of the players, so we reduced it to about the size of a professional soccer field.

 As you can see from the above two concepts, while there are standard yard markers like on a football field, the field surface itself is not made of grass. Since the field would morph into all sorts of different and challenging obstacle courses - mazes, lava pits, ice towers, deserts, etc., when it wasn't "active" it would be pulsing or swirling with energy. I did a bunch of concepts for the energy effects ranging from electrical arcs, to swirling lava-like energy flows.

The storytelling style was designed to emulate a sports show where there would be slow motion replays, stat motion graphics, sponsor commercials and graphics, etc. I designed a floating jumbotron that would float above the stadium with constantly changing screens that could telescope out to the audience or the camera. There's a ring of multicolored lights to create holographic laser shows or spot light some action. One of the things I loved about this project was that it wasn't supposed to take itself too seriously. You'll notice that rocket power was the basis for a lot of our mechanical designs. The above jumbotron is kept aloft by rotating rockets. Think helicopter rotors with rockets at the end. Everything to the max. I think this philosophy was rooted in the use of traditional puppets. We certainly could have animated computer generated characters, or motion captured puppets, but the use of physical prop puppets has such a unique and distinct look that is unmistakable next to cg animation where everything looks so smooth and fluid and simulated, you almost always get caught in trying to recreate reality.

More concepts to come soon!

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