“3-2-1 Penguins!” Photo Illustrations

For the most recent episode of 3-2-1 Penguins! (titled “Pratical Hoax” and directed by Tom Bancroft), the script called for photographs to appear in various scenes. Since the show is built and animated in 3D, and since each photo would only be seen on screen for a few seconds, and since television deadlines are so brutal, rather than to build the characters and backgrounds in the computer the best solution was for me to just illustrate the photos. Since this is a cartoon show with wacky humor, we could get away with cartoony illustrations rather than realistic 3D images.

Television production is pretty fast-paced so I had to crank them out quickly. To help them feel more like photographs I experimented with a new technique. I avoided outlining anything. Instead I drew each shape in Photoshop with the path tool , selected it with the magic wand tool, and then on a separate layer I threw in some flat color. Once I was satisfied with the overall tonal balance of the colors I used the airbrush tool to paint in the shading and highlights on yet another layer.


This “photo” was projected on the ship’s monitor screen for a gag about a peace treaty between a planet inhabited by dogs and tennis ball aliens. In hindsight I wish I’d have made the sling and bandages a little darker and less washed-out.




In this episode the main characters fill in as substitute teachers at “The Academy”, which is their old high school/college. Since the show takes place in outer space, the student body is composed of various aliens (lifted from past episodes of Penguins). In one scene the camera pans a series of framed photos showing Captain Zidgel as a young cadet. I illustrated the above “photos” as part of that series.


Finally, we also see some photos of the villain, Bert the Hamster, during his days as a young cadet. Here he is posing with an early version of his invention, the Galeezel (a device used throughout the series to shrink and enlarge things). The idea was to show an early version of the device using 1980’s-era technology. Looking at it now, I should have made the tabletop a darker color so that Bert’s feet and the computer would stand out a bit more.


One thought on ““3-2-1 Penguins!” Photo Illustrations

  1. Hi Cedric, I just wanted to let you know that you continue to be a great inspiration to me ever since I stumbled upon your website last year. After you drawing my attention to the Infinity and Beyond book I have just ordered a copy as a treat to myself after being given a belated Christmas bonus! I have also just bought a copy of 321 penguins as a resource for my churches sunday school. Anyway, to get to the point, I was wondering if you knew of any good websites that provide bible story cartoons available for download or to buy? I always look for images to go with a story when I am giving a talk to the kids in my sunday school that I can project on to the wall but I find it very hard to find any suitable cartoon styled images that I could use that are fun and modern. I have ended up doing my own on a number of occassions but this is very time consuming and so I wondered if you could help! Thanks, an keep up the good work!

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