A couple weeks ago, we at TSSZ News pointed you in the direction of Sega’s Hamidashi blog for Sonic Unleashed. Two women (one, a level designer and the other, a character designer) posted various tidbits about Sonic Unleashed’s development, including numerous pieces of concept art for the game. Six days after our post, the pair once again gave us a sneek peak at Sonic Unleashed concept art – this time, for the animated short, Night of the Werehog.
Being in Japanese, we once again turn to the good ol’ machine translator to help us understand what they are saying. However, even with a machine translator, most of what they say is in broken english, so I will take the liberty to try and clean it up the best I can. What this ultimately means is there may be some inaccuracies here and there, but hopefully, you’ll get the gist of what they are saying.
The blue haired woman (Matsubara, Level Designer) opens by announcing that Night of the Werehog will be airing on “Kids Station“, a Japanese TV channel dedicated to airing childrens programming like Gatchaman and Detective Conan.
Matsubara: If you could not see it in theaters, or just want to watch it again, now you can!
Matsubara and Yoshino use this as a segue to discuss Sega’s VE Animation Studio, which produced Night of the Werehog and the CG cinematic scenes for Sonic Unleashed.
Matsubara: When I first saw (Night of the Werehog), it was like a gift from heaven! Sonic and Chip are so cute in it…
Yoshino: Now you’ve got me interested. I want to know how it’s done!
Matsubara: So you’re interested! Why don’t you ask a little more about it?
Yoshino: I know somebody who works at Sega’s VE Animation Studio. I will call them up on the phone.
After a brief phone call, the pair are invited to tour the VE Animation Studio. The first thing that catches their eye is a statue of a certain character from Night of the Werehog:
Sega V.E.: When Night of the Werehog came out, we used a machine to translate the 3D model of the girl ghost in to this statue you see here.
Matsubara: She is very pretty! Not only is her face beautiful, but she has a very elegant design, like that of a selfish princess.
Yoshino and Matsubara then move to the meeting room, where Night of the Werehog storyboards are set up. There are literally dozens of images tacked to a board, laying out the entire Night of the Werehog short movie scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot with hand drawn sketches.
Yoshino: How long did it take you to complete Night of the Werehog?
Sega V.E.: After the story and the scene progression was decided, it took us around one year.
Matsubara: Are you serious!?
Yoshino: That’s longer than I expected.
Sega V.E.: During that one year, I created this.
Matsubara: Is this a reference document? There’s data on Sonic, Chip, the three ghosts…
Matsubara: Wow, there’s a lot here! The names of the three Ghosts, descriptions of their personalities, likes and dislikes, what they did when they were alive, how they died…
Yoshino: This document is really thick! There’s tons of pages.
Sega V.E.: This still isn’t all of it, either. When we create a character, we create a lot of depth behind that character so their personalities come through more naturally.
Matsubara: I must say, for a movie without a single line of dialog, these characters definitely showed a lot of personality and emotion.
The above image possibly being of great interest to Sonic fans. Among the numerous reference images of the Werehog’s facial expressions are three very specific facial expression illustrations (in the top right corner of the image) depicting the Werehog with Super-Sonic-style spikes. Was this just a precaution taken by the Sega V.E. Animation staff, or was a Super Werehog intended to appear at some point in Sonic Unleashed?
As the interview continues, the Sega V.E. employee reveals that, because this was their first big project like this, it was a great challenge for them. Yoshino and Matsubara are introduced to one of the animators behind Night of the Werehog, a man by the name of Kinoshita.
Kinoshita: Oh, it is the two women from the Hamidashi blog. I am Kinoshita, one of the primary animators for Sonic and Chip in Night of the Werehog.
Matsubara: You know who we are? Wow, we’re famous even outside of the main Sega offices.
Yoshino: … (I’d rather use the word “notorious” to describe us)
Matsubara: Please, tell us how Night of the Werehog was created!
Kinoshita: Some would think we used Motion Capture to animate scenes in Night of the Werehog. At Sega V.E., we actually animate everything by hand. This allows me to express the comical movement of these characters very well, with an emphasis on over-the-top facial expressions in particular.
Matsubara: Kinoshito, stop.
Yoshino: Please explain what Motion Capture is to those who are unfamiliar with the term.
Kinoshita: You see, Motion Capture is when you need a character to move, so you bring in a real person to act out the motion in front of a camera. Their movements are then read by the computer, which allows the character to move in the same way.
Matsubara and Yoshino further discuss the animation process behind Night of the Werehog. The conversation eventually falls to the many hidden Dreamcast consoles stashed throughout Night of the Werehog and Sonic Unleashed itself.
Kinoshita: Sega products were included in our CGI scenes simply because we had fun making them, and we wanted to convey that sense of fun to our viewers.
Matsubara: I understand. I saw a Sega Dreamcast hidden in there…
Kinoshita: I’m glad you noticed!
Yoshino: Matsubara, don’t be a fool. I didn’t see anything!
Matsubara: You had to be quick in order to spot their secret locations!
Kinoshita: There are these images…
Yoshino: Hey, wait a minute! What was that image just then? Go back.
Matsubara: Sonic and Chip are playing a Dreamcast! I’m feeling a rush of emotion!
Yoshino: But there’s no scene like this in Night of the Werehog.
Kinoshita: This was a story concept that had to be left on the cutting room floor. As you can see, it was never finished. We simply did not have time to include it.
Matsubara: What a waste!
The interview continues, discussing various elements of CGI animation (such as the trouble the Werehog’s hair gave Sega V.E. – a notorious sticking point for many CG animators). The interview finishes with Matsubara telling players that they can find two of the ghosts from Night of the Werehog in Sonic Unleashed itself, via a side-quest taken in some of the town sections.
Keep checking TSSZ for any other major developments from the Sonic Unleashed Developer Blogs.