The creation of Tyranni, the Zoobe baby dino

Since Tyranni arrived to our lives last December, we've all been amazed with his awesomeness. No matter if hungrygrateful or on top of a dolphin, Tyranni always makes us laugh as if there's no tomorrow. Now that we’ve all had some months to get to know him, it's time to take a look back at the origins of Tyranni and there's no one better to ask about it than Stephan Sacher, the creator of the cute 3D baby dino and Zoobe's Creative Director.

How did the concept for a character such as Tyranni started?

Well, it all started when Lenard, the CEO of Zoobe, asked me what type of character I'd love to create. I always wanted to have a baby Tyrannosaurus as a character on Zoobe, since I've been a big fan of Masashi Tanaka's Gon. But of course, we wanted to give it our own twist and make Tyranni suitable for 3D mobile messaging.

In your opinion, what was the most challenging aspect of creating Tyranni?

Design wise, it was pretty clear where I wanted to head with Tyranni, but in the technical side, there were certain limitations. The character had to fit into the already existing rigs of the other Zoobe characters, whose legs move like humans do. In the case of Tyranni, his legs would bend like those of a chicken, so it was quite a bit of back and forth until his walking would look natural.

What are the steps to create and animate a figure like Tyranni?

First of all you draw the sketches and the color scheme, see if you like it and after that, you get to work on the technical drawings. You have to show him from the side and from the front, then get the proportions right so you can upload it into your 3D application. There you start modeling the character in 3D as a blocky wireframe and fill in more detail.

Once you have the 3D model ready and you’re satisfied with it, you do the UV layout. That's sort of cutting the character open - as horrible as it may sound - roll it out in order to have it geometrically flat and then paint on it. Right after, you wrap it back around the model, so you have your character colored.

Next step is to build a rig into it, which is a joint system that you need to get the character to move. Imagine it as building a puppet with a skeleton inside of it, so you can move it and do some stop motion animation as in Wallace & Gromit. When the rig is finished and is behaving as intended, then it's time to start animating.

The animators are not only busy with animating Tyranni, but also creating the props, such as the dolphin, and the backgrounds. They do this in classic 2D animation and 3D animation, using After Effects and also Maya. Once that's done, we bring everything together in our own 3D engine, which we optimized for faster than real time rendering. 

Wow, that's quite a ride. Who else in the Zoobe team was involved in the process?

First and foremost, Dimitrios Truchan, who is our Head of Modeling. He sculpts most of our models and paints most of the textures. When I draw, he has to try it out in the model and see if it can work. I am constantly providing corrections and over paints until, step by step, we get the final character. After that, Oleg Solovjov, one of our Technical Directors, created the rig for Tyranni. Simultaneously, Michael Herm took my concept drawings of the backgrounds and created the props, such as the falling food and the dolphin.

Will we see more Tyranni cuteness soon?

Definitely. I think Tyranni is a strong character that resonates with people and he became the new face of Zoobe.

Will he get a girlfriend?

Oh, well, I don't know about that yet. Maybe we'll start with a friend first; a little fish who's terrified by Tyranni. Next, depends on what the Zoobe users are up for!

And that's why, the next question is for you: What would you like Tyranni to do next? Tell us in the comments, so we nag Stephan to make your dreams come true!