Rewind to 1996 when I worked for a pioneering company, Brøderbund. Alongside a team of talented, passionate people, we created and published some of the best, most enduring brands in the emerging “edutainment” software market. Odds are you or one of your kids would say “oh yeah, I remember Carmen Sandiego.” Or maybe Kid Pix, Myst, The Print Shop and many others that were award-winning hits of their time.

I’m very proud of everything I worked on at Brøderbund, but my all-time favorite project was Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, a brilliant logic puzzle game conceived and designed at TERC, a non-profit focused on education research and development. Although the game was intended for kids 9+, Zoombinis took on a Harry Potter-like status where older kids were playing with younger siblings and adults were playing alongside (or not) their kids.

As art director, I had the opportunity to lead a team of uber-talented animators and artists who really pushed the boundaries of what was being done at the time, using a mix of the latest digital technologies and good old-fashioned pencil, paint and paper.

Below are videos and images highlighting what we created, along with some of the beautiful imagery for the NEW iteration. That’s right, this cult classic has been revived —with a new iPad app!!

If you’re not familiar with the Zoombinis’ story of a peaceful, productive life thrown off course, watch this video from the original…

Old Meets New

All the backgrounds in the game started with a layout drawing that incorporated functional design elements into a vibrant scene. An illustrator used that drawing to create an acrylic painting that was scanned for the digital backgrounds. Our inspiration came from the stunning landscape paintings of Grant Wood (most famous for his American Gothic painting).

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis

Original background painting from a scene where the Zoombinis transitioned to the next puzzle in their journey.

Here’s an example of the original artwork for the “Allergic Cliffs” puzzle alongside the updated version…

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis - Allergic Cliffs

Original artwork (top) is being beautifully updated for the new version.

The original team of animators were classically trained and technically savvy, so the animation was also created with a combo of traditional and pioneering digital methods. As you’ll see in the old and new comparison below, their talent has stood the test of time and is being leveraged for the new version.

I’m very excited the small-but-mighty blue beings will continue their mission to teach math and logical thinking under the guise of epic fun.