We collaborated with Nickelodeon to make an animated short linking favorite characters as they travel through the universes of classic video games. With 14 million YouTube views, and rabid fans studying each frame for easter eggs, Nick made the inevitable decision to produce a sequel. Then a threequel!
Here’s how this epic trilogy came to be.
Save the Baby
Nick came to us with the loose idea of creating a piece featuring Nick stars crossing over into video-game parodies. We collaborated with their writing team to flesh out a structure and choose which games to reference. Meanwhile we worked on character design, as well as the games’ look. Together we decided that none of the games depicted should be totally faithful to the original. Some are even combinations of several similar games.
This first spot draws together characters from two shows, The Loud House and SpongeBob SquarePants. We redesigned them in a squat, caricature style with bold outlines to unite their looks and to separate their game selves from their broadcast versions.
After passing through parodies of popular games like Super Mario Brothers, Minecraft and Angry Birds, the team shows up for the final boss battle. We redesigned the characters again in their own boss style, along with introducing a new, four-headed dragon for them to fight.
Following the success of “Save the Baby” (and a spinoff game Nick built), the network invited us back to gameland. This time the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had to traverse six games to retrieve something very dear to them, pizza!
As viewers follow the characters through Nick versions of games like Fortnite, Splatoon and Super Smash Bros, they find plenty of easter eggs from the previous Portal Chase game. Once again, the characters sport a new stubby design for all their gamehopping.
This short comes full circle, ending where the previous one began. At least that was the plan until Nick decided they had one more story to tell.
Secret Formula Frenzy
The third installment in the series assembles the heroes of the first short with those of the second, as they chase after SpongeBob’s nemesis, Plankton. In the final showdown, they almost lose to the giant, exo-suited Plankton, animated in the 1930’s Cuphead style. Then the entire cast of The Casagrandes arrives in a battle-ready variant of their entire apartment building.
The epilogue leads to the other Portal Chase stories, because all three can be viewed in any order. It even hints at new games the Chasers might face, but of course, that was just a tease. In total we created nearly 50 new versions of Nickelodeon characters and sent them through some 20 video games.
For these projects we built the character rigs in Adobe Animate and animated them in ToonBoom. In addition, for games with a strong 3D feel, we animated backgrounds in Cinema 4D. We called on After Effects for all compositing chores.