One critical element to what we’re building atop of Central Park is going to be memorable characters. There are so many iconic places within the park, that if we just put plain vanilla characters into our adventure they would seem extremely dull in comparison to their surroundings.
We want a narrator on this LARE. Someone who can guide you through the park. This character needs to be an expert in all things Central Park related. What’s the most abundant creature in the park? That’s easy: squirrels. I have this picture of a very unique looking squirrel. I really like how large and solid he looked.
We can’t just use him as is though. He needs some backstory and some additional traits. This is where the co-designers come in. My two daughters and wife create the following sketches to give personality to the squirrel.
I can’t remember if he got a proper tie because he was Mr. Squish E. or if he got a proper title because he was wearing a tie. Either way, the original thought was for him to be a squishy toy, but that was quickly abandoned. Instead, he’s a creature that’s magically come to life just to be your guide.
Our in-house designer takes a stab at our narrator’s appearance. His daughter asks why Mr. Squish E. has to be brown vs some other color like pink or yellow. Therefore, Tanaka adds some color.
He looks very fun, but not quite there. We decide to reach outside our core team for some help. I remember an artist’s work at a talent show 15 years ago and thinking, “I want to walk around in a world filled with this art!” I reach out to Mark and ask if he’s interested in helping out. I give him all the drawings and concept art we had come up with in house as inspiration. His first passes are spot on and our friendly guide is officially born!
You’ll notice the bow tie that the girls came up with. There’s the stockiness of the original photo. There’s the colors suggested by the Tanakas. Atop of all that, Mark brings a childlike perspective to the character’s design. This is very important as one goal of this project is: Bring to life the dreams of children and the child within adults.
I love how Mr. Squish E. looks. I love this path to his creation. As I write this, it’s weird because Mr. Squish E. is now a 3D model and rigged for animation in Blender. You’ll see that progression in a future post.
It’s been fun showing you how this fun character come into being. We can’t wait for you to meet him properly inside SeentralPark as he escorts you on your adventure.