Zhu Zhu Pets – The Photo Booth

As one of the character designers for the upcoming Zhu Zhu Pets movie, The Quest for Zhu, I had to get a lot of personality into my drawings so that the many storyboard artists and animators could more accurately work together to make these characters come to life as individuals. Most of the time my drawings remained completely behind-the-scenes and were only seen within the studio. This time things were different.

My director, Bob Doucette, asked for a series of photo booth style drawings of our one human character, Katie, and her pet hamster Pipsqueak that would be used directly on screen in the movie. As you know if you have spent any time at all in a photo booth, it is nigh impossible to not act a little goofy once that camera starts-a-clickin’! So, I set out to create a set of cute and goofy images as Katie and Pipsqueak would likely have done.


Katie & Pipsqueak


I will say that I had a little help with the above. In order to draw Katie juuuuust right for a few of those poses, I recruited some folks in the studio to pose for me. The bottom two crazy faces were expertly supplied to me by our wonderful production assistant Steffi Larson. Steffi dove right in without hesitation making the best crazy faces I had ever seen while my camera clicked away. If her face had frozen in any of the contorted poses she provided, I would never have been able to forgive myself.

For the image second from the top, I had a different model. Tom Cain, a bald buddy with a decidedly different physique than that of a 12-year-old girl, was helpful in posing with that outstretched hand. Inspiration comes from the places you sometimes least expect it! I’m glad Tom could help in that way, because you see, he was the next artist to have a go at these drawings. Tom is a painter on this movie painting all the characters and props so that the foreign studio knows exactly how to create everything in a CG (computer graphics) world.

Below are Tom Cain’s paintings of my drawings. Since these are going right into the movie, Tom’s goal was to make the drawings look as if they were photographs of the CG characters, even though they are really just two-dimensional paintings. Tom is an amazing artist, and I’ll likely be showing you some more of his paintings of my drawings in future posts. (Try not to think of that outstretched-hand Katie as a self-portrait by Tom.)


Zhu Zhu Pets movie art
Drawings by Chad Frye, paintings by Tom Cain! This past year you may have noticed Disney characters in ads for D23 in the margins of your Facebook page and on the D23 website – Tom painted those, too!


If you’d like another sneak peek at the animation from the movie, and get to see Katie and Pipsqueak in action, here is a music video that will be seen at the end of Zhu Zhu Pets: The Quest for Zhu when the movie comes out on DVD September 27 (CLICK HERE to order it on Amazon.com).