WorthPlaying: Can you tell us a little bit about where Scarygirl came from? What was her genesis? How did you get the idea for the character?
Nathan Jurevicius: In 2001, conceptual designs on an online concept called Scarygirl started happening about a cute but slightly odd little girl who was abandoned late one night, is later found and brought up by a friendly octopus, and is guided by a mystical rabbit (Bunniguru). This was put on hold when I was approached to create limited edition toys with a company from Hong Kong. Since that time, I've partnered with Sophie Byrne of Passion Pictures Australia to create an award-winning online game and graphic novel based on Scarygirl, numerous products, and development of an animated feature film.
Her appearance was inspired by a combination of a small character in an editorial piece I illustrated and my love of the ocean. Her name was partly derived from seeing my daughter as a young child hooked up to various tubes and tests — she looked like a "Scary Girl." Part of her personality comes from my daughter too: curious, determined, creative and vulnerable.
WP: In Scarygirl's world, her two main friends are Bunniguru the rabbit and the Octopus who adopted her. Bunny rabbits are generally seen as sweet and friendly, so it makes sense that a lost child would find one comforting, but why the Octopus? Did you choose the animal guardian simply for its strangeness value, or was there a deeper reason?
NJ: There's a theme that runs through the Scarygirl mythology, and it plays true to real life: Things are not always as they seem from the outward appearance. Bunniguru (and all the characters) has mixed personality traits. When you delve deeper into his life, you discover he is conflicted about doing the right thing and doing what is easy. Blister, though freakish-looking, is more of a guardian/father figure than Bunniguru. He relates to Scarygirl's flaws, and there are a few other significant things that link them together ... though many of these will be revealed in the animated feature film I'm doing with Passion Australia.
WP: Along those same lines, why does Scarygirl also have a tentacle? Is there some mysterious connection to the Octopus? Or was the tentacle merely an excuse to have a multi-purpose tool on hand at all times?
NJ: Scarygirl has various mystery origins that will be revealed in the film. The tentacle is definitely part of her connection to the ocean and the world around her. Her arm is both a hindrance and positive attribute.
WP: Scarygirl's tentacle arm is put to good use in the new PSN/XBLA game, allowing her to hover in mid-air, grapple and use dazed enemies as a blunt hammer – among other things. How many of these actions are new for the game, and how much of this comes from the original graphic novel?
NJ: Most of the functions of her arm that you see in the game are totally new and specific to the game. I'm very open to parallel stories that have similar characters, an overarching goal but complete their journey in alternate ways.
WP: What other elements are pulled from the graphic novel and/or the browser-based Scarygirl game? Is the new console game simply a retelling of the original graphic novel, or is this a new chapter in the world of Scarygirl?
NJ: The new game shares some similarities to the online game and graphic novel. Various locations, characters and the journey to the city to discover Scarygirl's past. Aside from this, the XBLA/PSN game is a total re-imagining of her world, and there are many twists in her story as well as a ton of new environments and quests.
WP: Producing a browser-based game must be somewhat different than producing a console game. How did your involvement differ between the two projects?
NJ: The online game was wholly developed by Passion Pictures Australia, myself and with Film Victoria assistance. On that project we were running the show and had total freedom. The console game was quite a different beast to deal with! My role initially on the game was approving various visuals and sketching potential characters and elements for the environments. As time progressed, I think TikGames was impressed with my input, so my involvement increased and I spent a lot more time in-house with the developers finessing the environments/designs. Time is always an issue with games, and there's only so much you can get done before delivery, but I feel like the small team did an amazing job, and I'm really pleased with what they achieved.
WP: Visually, the console game looks like a cross between a Tim Burton film and a Neil Gaiman illustration. Everything is distinctly dreamlike and somewhat nightmarish, but in a slightly tweaked way – more Beetlejuice than pure horror. Where did you pull inspiration from when designing the characters and the world?
NJ: Most of what I do for the Scarygirl universe is to give each character some type of link to the ocean or the environment to which it inhabits. I draw inspiration from Lithuanian mythology and mash it with other cultures. There's usually a flawed physical quality about each character, too.
WP: The antagonist in the game is the mysterious Dr. Maybee, who appears in Scarygirl's dreams. When designing the story, you could have given Scarygirl just about any reason for her quest, yet you chose a character whose ambiguity is so defined that it is part of his name. In short, why the mystery? Why not be more direct with Dr. Maybee's motivation from the outset?
NJ: All the characters in the Scarygirl world are neither black nor white. There's a certain amount of ambiguity that makes them quite complex. Dr. Maybee is one of the most difficult to understand. His motivations are often quite hidden, and despite being egotistical and vain likes to have his creations show off for him. He's an artist, scientist and master game player — holding many of his cards to his chest.
WP: You've said before that you have used reinterpreted folklore tales as the basis for some of Scarygirl's adventures. Can you give us an example or two and highlight how you changed the classic tale to something that would fit within Scarygirl's world?
NJ: Many of these tales are based on Lithuanian and Eastern European stories. It's not so much that the folklore has been re-interpreted, but the essence from those tales taken out and used in my work. Connections with sea life, journeys about lost orphans seeking answers to their past, groups of traveling companions enlightening each other through overcoming obstacles and many others are themes I've taken and made my own.
WP: What's next for Scarygirl? Is the latest video game the end of the line? Are we going to see a new graphic novel? A TV show or feature film?
NJ: Aside from the DLC content I'm working on, part two of the graphic novel is due for release at the end of 2012. The biggest thing and most exciting thing for Scarygirl is the animated feature film!
WP: If you had to sum it up in 2-3 sentences, what about Scarygirl makes it a game that is really worth playing?
NJ: The richness of the worlds and the characters that inhabit them. The fantastic two-player option with Bunniguru. Scarygirl's amazing combo moves and unlockable features.
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