I'm excited to share more work from Dreamscape's recently released title, Alien Zoo! This time I'm sharing the work I did on the Sky Ray, an airborne creature that floats around your platform as you're transported around the zoo. In designing the sky ray, we went in many different directions and ended up working on this creature quite a bit.
Initially, I wanted the Sky Jellies (as they started out being called) to be more akin to squids and other cephalopods. I had imagine them filling with gas and using syphons to move about the sky. I had also incorporated some bioluminescence in their design, thinking it might be neat to see them light up in dark areas. My director, Walter Parkes, wanted me to take another pass.
This version looked more to deep sea inspirations and more complex body structures. Walter liked the idea of bioluminescence but had imagined the sky jellies as more "jellyfish" than squid. I was told to take another pass.
We headed into more jellyfish territory with my third pass. Instead of having the sky jellies darting around passed us, they'd float around gracefully as if they were in water. Walter loved this direction and decided we'd follow A's shape but with more tendrils and a more complex body. So I was told to take yet, another pass!
This was the result of a couple iterations but ultimately, Walter loved this direction. We imagined them pulsing with a glowing light from the inside and their young following them around though the sky. The creature was modeled, rigged and textured. When it was tested in the system, it was way too heavy and it couldn't work. At this point, we were still learning the limits of what we could do. We couldn't handle large amounts of tendrils or too much transparency - which were the two things Walter liked about this design. We had to scrap it and it was back to the drawing board.
I took this opportunity to inject a more alien feel into the concept. I looked at a variety of deep sea life again, imagining that perhaps these creatures had all evolved on a gas planet like Jupiter or Saturn. François Audouy had come on as Production Designer and brought up the idea of sting rays and manta rays as reference so I incorporated some of that as well.
Both Walter and François liked the top blue concept but encouraged a softer look to the wings and overall shape. They really loved the idea of it swimming through the air like a manta ray would through water. Of course, as a creature designer, I am trying to justify the design with it's function. I kept the air-sac idea to give the creature lift, thought about how we could incorporate color change abilities to add interest and figured out how it might land if it needed to roost. This was my favorite part about this project was solving these unseen problems that made the creature make some sense but also pleased my director and team. It was even better that my director and team really took my notes as facts about how these animals would move around and interact with the audience. It was a dream team!
François liked the design but also wanted to see another round of silhouettes to explore the wing shapes. I explored the possibility of having a bit of negative space in the wing and it was a win with both François and Walter. I figured the lift from the air-sacks on the front of the creature might help offset the holes in the wings or perhaps they are mostly weightless. The holes made it feel a little more alien in the end. From here we honed in on our final design!
This design would be the final look of our sky ray! These creatures are really beautiful in the experience. They glide and fly over and around you as you travel around the alien zoo on a floating platform. This creature was the more challenging of the bunch to nail down but seeing it come to life was quite a treat!
Alien Zoo is open and sold out! You can find out more at Dreamscape Immersive's website and by following their social media accounts. Stay tuned for more concepts from this project!