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INTERVIEW
Rodney Alan Greenblat

Rodney is the talented artist for Sony's popular music games
Parappa the Rapper & UmJammer Lammy

MT> You claim your website to be the "The center for advanced whimsy" How do YOU define "whimsy?"
RG> An odd or fanciful idea with a quaint and childlike quality.

MT> When one enters Cafe Rodney in Tokyo, what do they first see upon entering? Please describe the atmosphere of the establishment.
RG> There is a blocky, jumbo sized sculpture of a hostess holding a tray. A sign painted "WELCOME" is on her head. The atmosphere is comfortable, clean, colorful, eccentric. The food is light and international.

MT> Tell us about your work for Family Mart.
RG>
In 1998 a large chain of Japanese convenience stores and their advertising agency decided to hire me to create a whole new line of characters to represent their food products for TV commercials and in store displays. I started with "Marty Bagel" a character to represent Family Mart's new line of delicious New York Style bagel sandwiches. Marty was successful so I went on to design over 15 more characters that were featured in over 10 commercials and many products and displays. I became very famous in Japan as an artist, as Family Mart has over 4000 stores, and plays TV commercials continuously. It was exciting to see my characters all over Japan all the time. Unfortunately Family Mart went through a huge corporate shake out, and my project was ended, despite huge popular demand to keep it running.

MT> There are many Parappa characters: Cheep Cheap the Cooking Chicken, Chop Chop Master Onion, Joe Chin, Katy Kat, MC King Kong Mushi, Mooselini, Mr. Prince Fleaswallow, P.J. Berri, Sunny Funny, and others. Were the characters designed primarily for the game, or was the game based on pre-existing characters? Which came first?

RG> Only Sunny, Katy and PJ were pre-existing characters before I met the Parappa team. Those three were incorporated into the game to play supporting roles behind Parappa.

MT> Who is your personal favorite Parappa character? Why do you harbor such feeling for the particular character?

RG> I think PJ Berri is probably my personal favorite. His life style is: lazy, sleepy, during the day - Cool Club DJ at night - all the time eating. I really admire this. PJ is so cool and peaceful, but also will to help his friends any time with any problem.

MT> How was the process for designing characters for the sequel, UmJammer Lammy, different from the processes used for Parappa?

RG> Very different. When we started on Parappa 1, we did not know what we were doing. It was all a fun experiment. In Lammy tried to be professional with a bigger budget. I think that turned out to be the problem with Lammy. We worried about the details much more. We all freaked out a little. Still I am proud of my work on that game, and I think it is a great game.

MT> Teriyaki Yoko is a favorite here at GDG. What type of development does a character like Teriyaki Yoko and others endure? Do some of the characters evolve and have radical changes while maturing into the final incarnation?

RG>In the Parappa project I collaborate closely with Masaya Matsuura, the game creator, and the writer Gabin Ito. The characters come about in many different ways. Sometimes Matsuura will suggest the personality, and I come up with a character (Parappa, Mooselini). Sometimes Ito has a clear idea of the look, and I try to match it (Teriyaki Yoko, Cathy Pillar). Other times they leave it up to me to figure out the character based on the action (Chop Chop Master Onion, Cheap Cheap Cooking Chicken).

MT> Chief Puddle, Mar-San, Paul Chuck, and Rammy - those are all rather unusual names. Where do the obscure names for the characters originate?

RG> Basically it is the same process. Sometimes Matsuura thinks up these names himself (Parappa, Mar-san, Teriyaki Yoko), while other times I do it. (Prince Master Fleaswallow, Chief Puddle, Lammy). We collaborate also, as Matsuura invented the name "Um Jammer Lammy" based on my Lammy idea.

MT> Describe the production process between you and Sony? How and when does interaction, brainstorming, critiquing and other stages occur?
RG> I live in New York, and the game is made in Tokyo, so about 4 times a year we meet in either Japan or the US. At these meeting they explain the project to me and I make sketches and and add ideas. Then they usually present me with a list of the materials they need. When those meetings end, on daily basis we work by email. This works out well because of the time difference. I'm working while they sleep - although they don't really sleep very much.

MT> What medium do you use to create your artwork? Is there a particular process that you impliment?
RG> For the game designs and all the design work for products, I use my Macintosh computer. I use a Wacom tablet and pen to draw, using basically 3 pieces of software.

1. Corel Painter - to sketch and design, and also for illustrations.
2. Macromedia Freehand - To create graphics for printed items.
3. Abobe Photoshop - to process graphics.

Painter is my main work horse. I use it for story boarding, rough sketches, color concept drawings, and finished illustrations. Since all my commercial artwork is done electronically, I use the Internet to send it all to Japan.


MT> The Parappa the Rappa game has a very Japanese influence, of the likes that rarely leave the island of Japan. Were you surprised when Sony decided to release Parappa the Rapper domestically in the United States?
RG> No. I knew they would release it in the states, since all the dialog and song lyrics are in English. The mystery was how would US gamer buyers would react to Parappa. I'm still not sure.

MT> Your talents obviously expand beyond illustration. Tell us about your music cd "Baby Sea Robot."
RG> I love to play music, as I have studied piano since I was 7 years old. Unfortunately I don't have much real musical talent. Even so that has not stopped me. The computer has made it much easier to make multi track recordings, so in 1997 I decided to make my own CD of my electronic music experiments. My agent in Japan and I self published it, and got a multimedia branch of Sony in Japan to distribute it. You might still be able to find a copy at Tower Records in Shinjuku. Of course you can save the trip by downloading it all for free from my website www.whimsyload.com.


We appreciate Rodneys' unusual contribution to gaming.
His characters are unique, and certainly entertain us!

Have questions? E-mail Rodney
Visit Rodney Alan Grennlat's website

 

 

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