Miss Spider Is Having A Tea Party

by Jacquie Kubin

Every piece of entertainment begins with a good story, set in a believable universe and ending with a plausible outcome. For the game animator, there are bookshelves of children's tales that can be adopted into the genre of animated CD-Rom called edutainment. But edutainment is not elementary. Recently the world of Miss Spider, written and illustrated by David Kirk, has been modeled into a CD-Rom by Simon and Shuster Interactive and Hypnotix, Inc., a game developer located in Little Falls, New Jersey, called Miss Spider's Tea Party.

Miss Spider has a spot of tea with caterpillars, moths and many other insects in her new CD-Rom Miss Spider’s Tea Party. © Simon & Shuster Interactive.

"Miss Spider is a property that has been around as a proven seller for about eight years, during which time it has developed an extremely loyal fan base as a story book," said Jeff Siegel, vice president and creative director for Simon and Shuster Interactive. "It seemed to be sitting there just waiting to be turned into another medium."

Bringing A Book To Life

Kirk's use of neon colors -- vibrant oranges and yellows, day-glo greens and reds, Kool-Aid inspired blues and pinks -- transforms brilliantly to the computer screen. Yet moving the storybook into an interactive game was a feat that required a team with the talent to bring the established and highly stylized set of characters to motion while remaining true to the storybook reality.

A shot from the featured grasshopper "cut scene." © Simon & Shuster Interactive.

Even though the final game is played within a 2D environment, its development requires the combination of 2D and 3D animation skills. By creating the characters in 3D, the craftsmen are able to revisit and reuse the work without having to re-draw the characters which insures continuity.

Miss Spider's Tea Party CD-Rom required the development of two types of animations. There are the "cut scenes," which are the animated movies used between games to propel the story, and the game animations. The cut scenes are placed within "windows" or frames that visually border the movie action.

The animation was first created using 3D Studio Max, where the characters were 3D modeled and then, to that model, the mouth movements were synched with the sound files. Lighting was then added to the final scene. Sound and special effects were put together using Vegas Pro from Sonic Foundry. Scenes were then composited and rendered to combine all the elements -- character, sound and lighting -- that the animators had developed.

While the storybook teaches counting from one to ten within its lush environment, the CD-Rom's expansive room contains eight games, each teaching a different set of skills.

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