Zombies are hot. And everywhere. So how can you make zombie toys cut through the noise and get noticed?
Hasbro’s NERF Zombie Strike toys encourage fantasy play. With them, kids use their imagination to create us-against-them survivalist scenarios. They can defend their hideout and be heroes by blasting oncoming hordes of zombies. It’s a well weathered - and really tired - formula.
The opportunity for Zombie Strike was to evolve the story by evolving the zombies and hunters. The zombies are now weirdly smarter, and can scrap around to patch missing body parts with wacky objects. A muffler for a missing arm. Skateboard for a missing foot. Accordingly, the hunters are specialized and resourceful. A scientist who engineers a stealthy crossbow. A Weapons Master who designs a multi-shot rotating barrel.
With Zombie Strike, I wanted to suggest a story with depth — a mini-movie toy commercial — and plop the viewer smack in the middle of the action.
The Making of a Zombie.
One of the most interesting aspects of the zombie evolution is what it meant for the hunter’s hideout. A zombie that has keys for fingers is a threat to locked doors. And a couple of unlucky former cable guys can short the hideout’s power grid!
Putting pen to paper allowed us to ideate a cast of zombies with a back story; a skater, a plumber, even a stoney groundskeeper. In doing so, the parts they chose to patch their missing appendages became all the more believable - and fun - because they reflected each zombie’s character.
The leap from 2D to 3D saw our zombies start to come alive. One of the largest concerns in this stage was finding the balance between funny scary and scary scary. Our audience are children, after all. For example, with the hefty cable guy, we eventually changed the cables from red to other colors so they didn’t appear as bloody veins or tendrils. For the skinny cable guy, we envisioned him as having grabbed his larger partner’s helmet so we could employ the sight gag of seeing it flop around when he moved.
TEXTURE & LIGHT
In the final phases, we landed on the bluish pallor of the zombies for several reasons. Primarily, we didn’t want to give kids nightmares by suggesting rot and decay with brownish tones. We also wanted to create something ownable for Zombie Strike that was not the same greenish color as our product!
Integrating an exciting and clever story makes some neat toys credible. And desirable. (And, hell yeah! I got to make something with zombies!)
Group Creative Director
3D Modeling and Animation
3D Modeling and Animation Creative Director
3D Modeling and Animation Head of Production
Cake Mix Hasbro Studios