We were asked by Microsoft to create four of their retro game characters – it’s fair to say all of our inner gamesters were jumping for joy.
These retro sculpts were being used to promote Microsoft’s Rare Games Division’s back catalogue of video games at E3 – Electronic Entertainment Expo, a video gaming conference and show in Los Angeles.
The clay sculpt
Conker the squirrel
Built to fit
Painting Conker the Squirrel
Everybody loves Battletoad
Banjo photo opportunities
Conker at the Xbox stand
Conker on telly
The armatureAs with all clay sculpts we start with a metal armature. This is shaped roughly as per the sculpture, and gives a basis to build the clay on to. This armature was for Kazooie, a bird character from the retro game Banjo and Kazooie.
The clay sculptOnce the clay is on in the rough shape it is time to start sculpting and smoothing the clay
Foot detailThe detail for Kazooie’s foot will be captured in the moulding process
Banjo’s headHere is the detail for the hair of the character Banjo of Banjo and Kazooie
BattletoadBattletoad was the tallest of the four sculptures and we were given 360 degree images of the original to work from. Because we sculpt by hand and don’t always rely on 5-axis CNC or 3-D printing we can alter any part of the sculpture at any given moment. This is especially helpful to our clients when they want to be certain that there 3-D renders work in life size as opposed to just seeing it on a computer screen and they may want to see minor, or sometimes even, major changes, which is not possible when relying on CNC or printing. Some of our clients only have an idea of the concept they want realised and so we are able to show them, in the flesh, their ideas coming to life and this is where the sculpting process beats computerised systems hands down, although we realise the benefits of the accuracy of computerised methods and do work with these too if the project dictates that we go down that route.
Conker the squirrelHere you can see that we used foam to bulk up the large tail of Conker to keep the weight down and so that we use less clay. Clay is formed over this and sculpted.
BanjoBanjo ready for the clay to be sealed prior to mould making. The many metal arms that were needed to support the weight of this sculpt can be seen here. They will be left there until the mould is complete and taken away when we remove the clay from the finished mould.
Built to fitBecause the sculptures had to travel to the E3 Gaming Expo in Los Angeles, we had to make sure they would fit inside much smaller flight cases so we built them to come apart as can be seen here with parts of the sculptures in our spray booth after they were primed and ready to be painted. We bonded mannequin fittings in to the arms and waist to ensure that they would fit together perfectly upon arrival in LA.
Painting KazooieHere you can see one of our scenic painters adding the finishing touches to Kazooie. We use acrylic paints and lacquer them which not only enhances the colour but also makes them durable and, if they’re outside, waterproof.
Painting BattletoadWhat can we say here other than we loved every minute of this project and had great fun painting them.
Painting BanjoWe used spray guns and brushes to capture the detail on the characters and the final lacquer took place in the spray room
Painting Conker the SquirrelConker was a favourite of ours. His zip was made from shaping MDF and his laces and the pull cord around his top were cord; these were placed on the clay sculpt and moulded along with the clay. Again, we spray painted him and used brushes for the finer detail.
Everybody loves BattletoadOf all the photo opportunities we witnessed on social media, Battletoad definitely received the most attention.
Banjo photo opportunitiesBanjo at the E3 Gaming Expo in LA.
Conker at the Xbox standWe don’t know who the lucky gentleman is standing next to Conker but they both look delighted.
Conker on tellyWell, not the telly, but on Microsoft’s Rare YouTube channel as the presenters talked about the revival of the retro games that all four of our sculptures helped promote at E3.
What we had to do
They were going to be seen by a lot of gaming experts and that meant the retro characters of Kazooie, Banjo, Conker the Squirrel, and the mighty Battletoad had to be extra precise.
Having only images to work from – and in the space of just a few weeks – we needed to work hard on each character’s shape and their most intricate of details. Not to mention the fact that they had to be as strong as possible for Microsoft to send them over to the States.
How did we do it?
We set about creating the armatures and sculpting the clay figures by hand. This meant that we were able to send through regular images and updates to our clients so they could suggest any alterations, and then we could amend the clay easily.
How these 3D cartoon characters were going to make it across the pond to the oh-so-glamorous Los Angeles was something else we had to think carefully about.
We decided the best way that they would fit into travel cases would be for them to use mannequin fittings; we made them come apart at the waist, legs, head and arms in a way that they could be easily put back together.
From what we heard, these retro game characters were a hit with everyone at the exhibition – and proved to be quite the photo opportunity, too!
Find out what our customer had to say about the project
Battletoad was a massive hit at E3! Everybody wanted their photo next to him. I think it was because he was so big and just looked awesome. Please feel free to put the characters on to your website
We commissioned the team at Spur to produce four large statues of characters from our back catalogue of video games for display at the world’s largest video games trade show in the US. Not only did Phil and his team at spur meet a very tight deadline but they also produced absolutely wonderful statues that featured heavily at Microsoft’s main stand at the show. The statues really stood out from the crowd I couldn’t be happier with the guys at Spur and what they created for us.
David Sanderberg Head of Facilities Management Rare – Microsoft Studios