Friday, December 18, 2009

ITSP Gets Russian Exposure

Last summer, we were contacted by the editor of a Russian gaming magazine called Igromania. They wanted to do a feature on our game and sent us a bunch of questions. We went back and forth with emails and phone calls and later, we were sent a PDF of the two-page spread layout. Looks like the issue came out last September. We'd love to get a physical copy of it if anyone has a spare.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shadow Tidbits: Brett's Tattoo

Last June, my good friend Brett called from Iowa to tell me that he was going to get a tattoo of two of my designs that he had cobbled together.

When he sent me an image of what he had done, I almost got sick. I never do tattoos for people (please don't ask) but what he was going to have permanently tattooed on his body was so hideous that I had no choice but to agree to quickly come up with a better design. I fired up my Cintiq tablet and fifteen minutes later, I email him this design which he immediately got tattooed on his lower back.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Shadow Tidbits: ZED #8

As I mentionned in my last post, we're in serious negotiations to get the game signed. This means that until the signatures are inked on the contract, we have to stay quiet about ITSP. Fuelcell have been making lots of progress on the technology side of things and I personally can't wait to get back in the saddle in March 2010, when we are scheduled to resume full production. In the meantime, I'm going to be doing a series of post called "Shadow Tidbits", which will display some of my artwork past and present, that features shadow silhouette imagery. This is kind of a follow-up to "My History with Shadow Puppets" posts I've been doing these past weeks.

First up, is the cover of ZED #8, which came out in March 2007. ZED is a comic series I started in 2001, and I've been doing one issue a year ever since. I'm planning on releasing the final issue, ZED #10, in September 2010, exactly 10 years after the release of issue #1.

ZED is the story of a cute and adorable alien scientist who discovers a clean and efficient way to produce energy. When he demonstrates his invention , he inadvertently triggers a deadly chain of events - a monumental disaster that claims the life of his parents, the hierarchy of the galaxy, and 60 billion beings. Suddenly, his dreams of offering his society free energy become a nightmare as little ZED must come to terms with the knowledge that he caused the death of his parents and the annihilation of an entire planet; and now he's a pariah, hated by virtually everyone. As the story progresses, we realize that things may not be as they seemed at first.

Among the comics' recurring cast, is the Heavy Metal shadow band called Krah which is features here, on the cover of ZED #8.

More on ZED at

Sunday, November 29, 2009


We're in negotiations and are hoping to sign a deal soon. Our goal is to find the best home for ITSP and resume full production in March. In the meantime, I'm working on Fixed Fluid Fragmented, Flight 7, as well as a project with Electronic Arts, which I can't talk about at this point. To keep the blog going until we make an official announcement, I'll be posting artworks from my past and present done in a shadow puppet style.

Joe is also doing an interview and we'll post that as soon as it goes live.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My History with Shadow Puppets Part 7

In June 2007, I was contacted by Simon Capet, artistic director of the Victoria Philharmonic Choir. He asked me if I'd be interested in production designing a live shadow puppet theatrical presentation of Dvorak's epic masterpiece, "The Spectre's Bride". It didn't take long for me to agree to the proposal.

The two shows took place at the University of Victoria’s Farquhar theater in British Columbia, Canada on October 30 and 31, 2009. The sold out performances featured a 65-piece orchestra and 80-voice choir, along with soloists Ken Lavigne, tenor, Anne Grimm, soprano, and Bruce Kelly, baritone. It premiered a new English libretto by Mollie Kaye. Puppeteer Tim Gosley assisted by members of the Puppetry Guild of Victoria handled the choreography of the shadow puppets presentation.

My tasks included designing all the sets, characters and props. You can see some more sample of this work here.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

New Studio Space

It's actually been a few months since Fuelcell moved into it's new studio space, but it's been such a busy few months I haven't had a chance to post some photos, until now. It features a covered entry with a better view, our walls are a bit thicker, and there's much more usable space than the last studio.

So much space in fact that we used a bit of it to house the classic 1988 Williams pinball: The Cyclone, one of my favorite tables when I was a teenager. Chris Eng, our junior programmer, currently holds the high score at 9,952,390.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

My History with Shadow Puppets Part 6

In July 2004, I had a meeting with Anissa Dorsey, director of development at Cartoon Network. Anissa expressed her enthusiasm for my work and asked me if I'd be interested in doing shorts for CN. After a few weeks of brainstorming, I came up with a concept for a series: Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppet Show!

I proceeded to do a visual package demonstrating my concepts and pitched the project to Cartoon Network, as well as Disney and Nickelodeon. Cartoon Network and Disney both passed, but Nickelodeon liked the idea. After a few back and forth discussions, Nickelodeon decided to give me a budget to produce 10 short interstitials (the short pieces that go between the shows and the commercials) based on the idea.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets aired on Nickelodeon on Halloween 2005. You can view all the interstitials here, and read a production diary of the project here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bellingham Comicon

I will be a guest at the Bellingham Comicon this coming Saturday, October 24th.

A few days ago, I was asked to submit some artwork to publicize the event. To my surprise and delight, a still of our upcoming videogame was used as the cover of Take Five, the entertainment section of Bellingham's prime newspaper, The Bellingham Herald.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, come on by. I'll be there with books, comics, prints, etc, and will be on hand to answer all the questions you might have about ITSP. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My History with Shadow Puppets Part 5

In 1993, when I did effects animation on Demolition Man (Check this clip to see some of the animation I did with John Van Vliet and James Mansfield), I had to ink all my drawings with black pens so that high contrast elements for the optical printer could be created. I thought the drawings all filled in with black ink looked really cool!

Once in a while, I return to that technique, and start filling in my effects concepts with black ink so I can get a stark silhouette of the design. Here are samples from The Iron Giant and Osmosis Jones which I did while I was the leading FX designer at Warner Brothers Feature Animation.

Friday, October 09, 2009

My History with Shadow Puppets Part 4

At the beginning of 2000, after completing the effects work on "The Iron Giant", I joined the visual devellopment team on the movie, "Osmosis Jones" for which I designed and supervised the special effects.

One of my early assignment was to create a series of teaser posters for the movie.

For this, I decided to work in a shadow puppet and high contrast silhouette style.

Unfortunately all my posters were rejected in favor of a more cartoony approach. You can click here for a larger view.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My History with Shadow Puppets Part 3

In 1997, I wrote and illustrated my first storybook, A Search for Meaning: The Story of Rex. In July 1998, I took the plunge and self-published the book as a signed and number limited edition hardcover (1000 copies printed).

In the book, a little fox named Rex goes through a series of strange landscapes, meeting weird and unusual creatures in his search for enlightment. The story is somewhat autobiographical and reflected my own spiritual quest at the time. I used several black silhouette ink drawings within its pages, as well as on the cover (although, the current edition of the book uses a different, more colorful cover).

The following two years, I wrote, illustrated and published three more books in the same format: The Mystery of He, The Great Shadow Migration and The Bird, The Spider and the Octopus. Each one explored more of my strange concepts and philosophy. These first four books in my bibliography all used shadow puppet imagery to various degree to convey rhythm, mood and ideas.

These limited edition books were a big hit at the San Diego Comic-Con and quickly sold out. In 2004, I digitally remastered all the artwork and repackaged all four books into a 126-page anthology called Parables, again using a silhouette illustration as the cover.

These works were the launch of my publishing career and they really helped defined my illustrative style. I still have a soft spot for them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My History With Shadow Puppets Part 2

From 1996 to 1998, after seeing a Kandinsky exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), I became completely obsessed with doing fine art.

At the time, I was supervising special effects for Warner Bros Feature Animation which was a pretty demanding job - but still, I managed to create 75 fine art pieces in that two-year period which were displayed in several gallery shows.

The pieces were mostly abstract in nature and were done in a wide spectrum of mediums: acrylic paintings, wood sculptures, collage and ink and mixed-media. They ranged from large to small and complex to simple. All the pieces are very silhouette oriented and several of them use black to strongly define the shapes.

Doing fine art was a way to relax and express myself without commercial constraint, but more than that, it allowed me to build and elaborate my own visual language and iconography which would later show up in all my further work: special effects, book illustrations, comics, etc. A lot of the ideas I came up with during this phase of my art are being transposed and developed in our game, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

I rarely have time to do fine art these days but every once in a while, I'll create a piece for a gallery show and as usual, the silhouette aspect is always present. You can view a sample of some of my fine art work at this link.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My History With Shadow Puppets Part 1

Although my art has many facets, I've always enjoyed the art of silhouette. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I see the world in 2D, having lost an eye at the age of twelve. My world has been 2D for many years.

But then again, in 1974 at the age of nine, three years before I lost my right eye, I designed this logo for my mother's store. The store has been sold and resold several times, but the logo still stands.

Looking at it today, it bears a strange resemblance to some of the design work in ITSP.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Interview @ The Reticule

Here's our latest and probably last interview for a while. Click here to read.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wallpaper and Trailer HD Masters

Our exclusive deal with has reached its term so we are free to make the trailer available to anyone who wants it. We've created a series of 6 HD masters with different type of compression as well as a lossless version.

We've also had several request for wallpaper images. That's why we are releasing 31 hi-res images (1920 x 1080) to the public.

You get get the goodies at this link.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday, August 07, 2009

Here's our little alien.

Here's the design of the little alien scientist we finally settled upon. You can see him in action (briefly) in the trailer at 0:44 - 0:45.

We've built this little guy in 3D and are using Maya for the animation. However, our goal is to make the final animation look completely hand drawn. Our test footage so far is very promising.

Friday, July 31, 2009


We've got a lot brewing right now. We had a big breakthrough in our technology this week which opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. My brain is buzzing with design ideas and I look forward to create visuals that will help implement this new technology.

Next week, I'll be visiting my family in Quebec while Fuelcell is relocating to a spiffy new facility. I can't wait to see the new studio when I get back.

If you are a member of the press who has contacted us and we haven't responded, you might want to send us a reminder in a couple of weeks. Joe has been answering a huge amount of emails but some of them are bound to slip under the radar.

In earlier posts, I've shown some of my failed attempts at designing our main alien character. Here are two more designs that didn't make the cut.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Big Thank You

The reaction to the trailer was very positive. The release did exactly what we were hoping it would do: get the attention of publishers.

We'd like to thank everyone in the media who posted about our trailer and helped spread the word. You can read some of the coverage we received through the links below:

Kotaku, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Destructoid, el33tonline, Notcot, Giant Bomb, Awesome Radical Gaming, Killer Wolverine's News Blog, Solomother, onelargeprawn, Gamer Limit, Spons, Gamer Sushi, Geekstrike, Info Addict, Elotrolado, TIGSource, En Direct de mon Ecran, 1Up, Aroba 8 Ball, Indie Games, Mike DiLuigi, N4G, Fidgit, Offworld, Alexoid, CJP, MediaWhoreNetwork, VG247, Gaygamer, 4 Color rebellion, We Game, AATG, Vox Ex Machina, Neoteo, Joystiq, XBox Mag, Game Almighty, The Awesomer, Boing Boing, The Android Workshop, Team Liquid, 360 Only, Nations of Videogames, Ecrans, Button Masher, The Bayle, Epic Battle Axe, PC Dome, Current Gaming, Frederator, Info Addict, Headphonaught's Nanolog, VideoJuego, Aeromental, Gamegea, CG Hub, Niubie, Sarcastic Gamer, UnderPC, Universe Bot, The Weird Pixel, 4 Player Podcast, Video Games Blogger, Game Blog, Beef Jack, Crush! Frag! Destroy!, Oddlight, Valhalla, Reign in Blog, Gamers Throne, La Pause du Gamer, Unreality Magazine, What They Play and Cartoon Brew.

This past week, we've been asked a lot of questions concerning platforms, release date, software, wall paper, etc. We'll be tackling all these issues in future posts so make sure you stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New HD Trailer on

Watch the new trailer for Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet on
HD Version - Standard Version.

Here's a little history of our project so far:

In 2007, Joe Olson and I discussed the idea of collaborating on a video game project. We imagined a side-scroller that would combine old school arcade style game play with feature film quality design and animation. Thus was born Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

Soon after, Joe, a team of industry veterans, and I formed a partnership to begin development. A few months later, on August 27, 2007, we released our first trailer on-line. Yes, it's been a while, but by no means have we been standing still. Since starting the project, we developed the story arc and interstitials; we created environments, creatures, and mind-bending effects animation; we’ve blocked out levels, came up with new, exciting and challenging game designs; we resolved technical issues and made several technological breakthroughs.

We are excited to share some of the progress in this new trailer, which consists entirely of in-game footage. It conveys the scope, style, and breadth of the experience we aim to bring to the player.

The trailer also features the track “Blood Hunger Doctrine” from the album Death Cult Armageddon by Dimmu Borgir, used here with gracious permission by the band and its record label, Nuclear Blast.

We are hoping that the release of this trailer will bring forth potential financial partners who share our passion for Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and who can help us bring this title to the marketplace.

We strongly believe that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is going to be a hit, and the few who have glimpsed the progress unanimously agree. Twenty minutes of footage from the game were shown recently to attendees at the Industry Giants symposium in Austin, Texas, and the audience responded with great enthusiasm. You can read some of their comments here.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The 8-Bit Legacy

When Joe originally approached me to partner up for a video game venture, my first response was to state my ignorance in the field. I told him that despite having been commissioned by both Disney and Sony to create designs for two video game projects that never saw the light of the day, my knowledge of the field was extremely limited. In fact, beside a short stint playing the original DOOM, my game playing days go back to the 8-bit era for which I have very fond memories.

I suggested to Joe that we could take the stylistic approach of an old-school 8-bit side-scroller, but instead of crude graphics, we could make it look like a feature quality classically animated film. Joe loved the idea and a few days later, we were at work building on the concept.

The two stylized art pieces (Space Invaders and Pacman) posted here are not from our game. They are two ink/pencil drawings I did for an 8-Bit tribute art show that took place in Los Angeles a few years ago. I thought they were relevant to the subject of this post and would be a fun addition to the blog.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nailing the Concept

One of the challenges of developing Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is transferring Michel's unique style to the interactive environment. Our goal is to give the player an experience of being the central figure in an animated film drawn by Michel Gagne. While we generally use Michel's concepts to set the visual bar and to provide mood and composition, in this case the end result is extremely close to the initial vision.

Below I've posted 2 images. One is an in-game screenshot I captured recently, the other one is from Michel's original concepts. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pixar and Skeleton Crew

I've been working on Pixar's "The Bear and the Bow" since we finished the Microsoft presentation. Work on ITSP is still forging ahead at Fuelcell with a small skeleton crew and I'm reviewing the progress on a weekly basis. This game is getting done.

Anyhow, here's another rejected design of our little alien I did about a year ago.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our Newest Recruit: Chris Eng

I wanted to take a moment (and some of Michel's blog space) to introduce a new member of the Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet team here at FuelCell - Chris Eng. Chris applied to FuelCell for an internship under the University of Washington's Computing & Software Systems course and ever since has been instrumental in the development of ITSP. Most notably lending a much needed programming hand in the demo build we put together for the XBLA group at Microsoft. Contributing everything from AI state machines to bug fixes and polish, (even Michel can't break the build now!) Chris really knocked it out of the park.

Recently Chris graduated and gave a presentation on his internship at the UW's Bothel campus. A number of the FuelCell staff was on hand to witness this great moment in video game history, so I thought I'd share some photos with you. Also, it's good to mention Chris took first prize in the poster design section of the presentation - which not only comes with bragging rights, but also a large bag of victory blow pops. Congratulations Chris!