I'm excited to share more work from my time on Dreamscape Immersive's debut Virtual Reality Experience, Alien Zoo! In case you missed my other updates about the project, you can read about them on my blog. The premise of the experience (without giving too much away) is that a few humans (us) are brought up to a zoo containing wildlife from other worlds. There, players interact with and tour the zoo, learning about the creatures inside. In the experience, players are able to touch and play with creatures, feel misty environments and smell their surroundings. It's a truly immersive experience.
Today, we're looking at one of the favorites of Alien Zoo: The Frog Cat.
Most of the aliens in Alien Zoo required fine tuning and a few needed multiple passes to get to a stage where the team was happy. However, there are times in character design when things just click right away. The Frog Cat was one of those instances.
The initial idea for this creature involved touching, a feature that would later be moved to the Trunk Horse. At this stage, the Frog Cat required a large mouth and a playful and curious look. I wanted this creature to feel like something you may want to hold or play with. In my mind, it needed to feel cat-like with large eyes and a flexible build. The body plan should facilitate fun interaction like imitating your movements or waving at you. My initial concepts hit a chord. My director, Walter Parkes, loved the direction and the Frog Cat was set! It's rare, but sometimes it just works out from the get go.
From here it was refining the design and figuring out what the creature would actually be doing in the experience. There were TONS of ideas for this guy, all of them ambitious. In the begging, this creature was a water dweller. I had designed them, knowing that there would be a transition from water to land in their habitat.
The Frog Cat was such a hit with testing and the team, that they wanted a group of them. The early concepts for these guys had them varying in shape and color quite a bit. In the end, they vary in color but their sizes aren't as exaggerated from individual to individual.
Sometimes, in production, circumstances change but the design has to remain the same due to budgets and time. The Frog Cat had become a big part of the overall experience (I'll save you the spoilers) but this also meant that their habitat had changed. They were technically still amphibious however their time was now spent in the tree tops of Alien Zoo. While their body plan may not be obvious as climbers, the animators did an excellent job of selling it and the Frog Cats are a ton of fun in the experience!
The Frog Cat was eventually made into a 3D printed maquette to be on display in the lobby of the experience at Century City Westfield Mall. It was sculpted by Julia Kodl and posed by Jimmy Lane. It was painted by Kristina Drake and Ernesto West of Beast Brothers.
The Frog Cat even became an exclusive t-shirt that was sold at the Century City popup experience! Working on the Frog Cat was such a joy. Special thanks to the amazing team at Dreamscape Immersive that made them possible.
You can catch a glimpse of the Frog Cat in the trailer above. Alien Zoo has just wrapped up it's preview showing at Century City mall. It heads to Dubai in a few months and will return to the US sometime after that. I will share updates as I get them! In the meantime. follow Dreamscape Immersive on their social media sites, via their website.