Click on a picture to see the original version or the new version.

For more information about how this shot was created, see below!

NOTE: I've had a number of emails asking why I changed the overall look of the mechanical spider and also questioned why my version does not take place in the daylight in the middle of Monument Valley, like the Jonny Quest titles depict. Okay, here's the answer: There are two versions of this scene created by the original Jonny Quest team. There's the one in daylight with the purple spider in the middle of Monument Valley and there's the one as depicted in the actual episode, which has a black spider and takes place in an army base at night and is surrounded by rolling hills. Given a choice, I felt that the night version worked best and that, no matter how many people might want me to be faithful to the original titles, there was no way in hell I was going to make a purple, mechanical spider.

Now as far as the overall design differences of the spider, there was something about the spider in the original that always bugged me. As a cartoon animator, I could appreciate them going for a minimalist approach while working on a weekly deadline. Just use simple straight lines for the legs and then capitalize on that concept by having them fold up into a small, round body (which happens in the episode). And if all it ever did was sneak around, I probably would have followed that design faithfully when creating the model. But when you have something so obviously fragile being later blasted by a 50 calibre machine gun and then taking multiple hits from a tank, well, at that point the "waif" runway look doesn't seem as nice a fit as a large, hydraulically powered juggernaut pounding its way out of the camp. So I went with something more substantial. Larger legs meant a larger body to fold into and more mass and a lower center of gravity, etc. I realize this is quite a departure from the original design but I feel it is also more realistic. And, frankly, it was more fun to build and animate for me. So there.

But for those die-hards that would like to see it in the original title setting, click HERE.

The Robot Spy!
Like most JQ fans, this is the segment that I have looked forward to the most and, I gotta tell you, there's a lot of work behind these two seconds of animation. Sit back because this page is long with lots of pictures.

To start with:

How to make a Robot Spider in 13 easy steps!

First, gather some plastic tubing, wood and some odds and ends left overs from a machine gun kit.


Cut and sand into the desired shapes. Then hit with a coat of evil black spray paint.
Note the silver tube, which represents a hydraulic piston. Gotta love chrome spray paint.


While that dries, locate two clear plastic lenses.

Drill a hole in the center of only one for the iris.


Dig around for an orphaned 8 ball.
( Admit it. Didn't we all think of the Robot Spy every time we saw this while playing pool as a kid? )


Check for a good fit.  Back paint the lens with the hole using red paint.
Use hot melt to attach the lens without the hole to the 8 ball temporarily.


Give it a nice coat of black paint. The lens protects the smooth surface of the 8 ball to make peeling off the hot melt glue easier without ripping away at the surrounding black spray paint. The lens without the hole will be used for another scene where the eye closes. After painting, this will be removed and replaced with the red eye that has the hole in the middle.


To save resources, I only built one leg. I then attached the leg to a stand and animated it in four different positions.
This was actually easier than trying to animate all the legs at once.  Each leg goes through a 30 frame cycle. I can then repeat the sequence as long as I need it for the shot.


Me, again, animating the leg. The white foam core surface served two purposes. It gave me a contact point for when the leg was supposed to touch the ground and it also allowed me to mark increments on its surface so that the path of the legs was precise. This was important because the end of the leg cycle had to match up with the beginning. The foam core platform was removed during the actual exposure, which allowed the leg to "walk" in the air, thus making compositing easier.

To see this animated leg click HERE!

Once all the legs were animated, they were combined into one element.
The legs are wood, plastic tubing and aluminum channel from the hardware store. The combat rated hydraulic lines are just braided string painted silver. The jumbo screw heads are obvious but I felt they were fun so I just left them. :)

Now all we need is the eye!


The leg needed to be quite large to accomodate the detailing and the joints, which meant that the "eye" was at a smaller scale.  Also, the camera view for the final shot is looking up at the spider sightly and the eye needed to rotate freely in all directions. So, rather than create a complex socket for the eye,  my solution was to point the camera down and simply rest the 8 ball eye on a plastic ring glued to a board.


Here I am putting the eye through its paces. The ring allowed the ball to always find its own center. I later simply created a round matte to allow for compositing the eye into the shot of the leg combination.


Here's the eye with a blue matte surrounding it. The collar at the top was created in Photoshop.


And here are the legs and the eye combined into one element.

Now we need an appropriate background to put this in!


To create the desert landscape in miniature, Brandi slings a bunch of mud. Several tubs of wood filler were used and Brandi did an excellent job of sculpting it into dunes, hills and desert floor, complete with tire tracks.


A quick coat of latex paint via a jumbo sponge and, presto! Instant desert. This was mounted on the animation table so that it could be moved in increments to allow for a traveling shot.


A variety of metal toys from the local five and dime store were dismantled and given a healthy coat of olive drab paint.


The smaller vehicles will be used in the distance. The larger scale jeep will be in the foreground and shot separately.



A couple of shots showing the layout of the set. The small area to the right was a foreground extension added after the fact when I realized the camera angle I desired did not have enough "ground" and the edge of the table would be visible.


The jeep was shot separately with increments calculated to match the smaller scale of the desert. Note the mirrors placed under the jeep to extend the blue screen below the jeep.

And here are the final elements:





And this is what they look like together:


An animated shadow was added to complete the effect. Click on the picture for a larger view!

The finished clip is at the top of the page.

Thanks for looking!


All information, videos, photos and graphics in this website are copyright 2009, Roger Evans. All rights reserved.
For those that enjoy the creak of leather, click HERE for my gallery of western art paintings