Jhonen Vázquez Designs For Randy Cunningham, 9th Grade Ninja

Disney recently released a trailer for their new series Randy Cunningham, 9th Grade Ninja, which will be kicking off on their XD channel in the US come September 17th. We might start by looking at that trailer now.

Some of the design work there might seem familiar, not to mention appealing, to fans of Jhonen Vázquez, Invader Zim and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, for the most obvious of reasons.

Vázquez has been sharing some of his original Cunningham designs on his own Tumblr. Here’s a selection, with some of his notes.

Part of my year was spent doing character designs for a show for Disney XD. Every time I tell people that they freak out about the Disney part of that story, but there’s some pretty great design design stuff happening on that channel, and a lot of it is thanks to the guys at Titmouse Animation. Titmouse was who I dealt with, actually, and I never really had any direct involvement with anyone from Disney so my hands are clean of any mouse droppings.


These were my first sketches of possible Ninja designs for Randy Cunningham. I always want to go for a little more inhuman on stuff, so Randy as a Ninja in these early designs was a bit more covered up in my favorite sketches, but with the big eyes glowing or showing through so he could still be expressive enough. My favorite is definitely the one with the orange exclamation mark-ish shape on the forehead.

One of the only peripheral characters I did for Randy Cunningham was this “band geek” that eventually gets mutated into a hulking horror. Along with being the only side character I did for my first pass it was also the only monster. At a later point I went back and did about 25 creature designs for later use in the show, but this band monster and the Sorcerer were the only inhuman looking things I got to do early on.

When the Titmouse guys asked if I wanted to design this stuff I pretty much said “Monsters and robots. That’s what I want to do.” Doing Randy and Howard and such was fun enough, but I’m happiest when things get a bit more monstrous and robotic.

I guess, in the show, the Sorcerer has the power to transform people and things into monster versions of themselves, so this was my go at what that might result in. Figured some common element would be this black mass that sorta operated the victim, but that was probably too bizarre for a kids’ show. I’m not the best person to decide that! It was pretty much your general purpose supernatural Miyazaki goo.

I think it goes without saying that the Sorcerer was my favorite guy to work on. Pretty sure he was just supposed to be some kind of old timey magician from Japan but he’s just a monster now. Was really into the overly distorted proportions for the guy, tiny legs and arms that would most likely drag on the floor if not held up, and then there’s his crazy long neck. Not a whole lot left of whatever human he maybe used to be.

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