PaRappa chief artist Rodney Greenblat kindly offered up some of his free time to answer our pressing questions. Enjoy!
PaRappa the Rapper is one of the most iconic characters of the early PlayStation era. Can you explain to our readers how the opportunity to design this great character first came about?
My agent helped me get a contract with a licensing division of Sony in Japan called Sony Creative Products. I was working for them designing cute characters for printed items and toys. The wonderful team at Sony Creative introduced me to Matsuura and his game project. Matsuura and his team were already fans of my children’s books and CD-ROM productions. They asked me to design the characters and world for the new mysterious and fantastic Playstation 1.
PaRappa was a huge success and helped create a whole new genre of rhythm games. How does it feel that you helped create such an important character and were you surprised at how well the game sold?
Sony and the whole Parappa 1 team were completely surprised by the runaway sales in Japan. I think what was great about making Parappa 1 was that we had few expectations, and were just trying to make something fun. When it turned out to be a hit, I was overcome with joy!
Can you explain the inspiration behind your great artwork for PaRappa and his many friends from the series?
When I was a kid I loved TV cartoons like Bullwinkle and Speed Racer. I also wanted to imitate Picasso and Matisse. So mix that all together. Sony Creative really understood my style, and their confidence along with the game team’s incredible creativity made it easy for me to make the best characters.
Out of all the characters in the game, do you have a personal favourite and can you explain why (I love Chop Chop Master Onion)?
I’ve always been partial to PJ Berri. He sleeps late every day, works in an old style record store and is a DJ at Club Fun at night. He loves to eat. What better life is there?
Was PaRappa the first video game you helped create artwork for?
Yes. My previous interactive projects were CD-ROM works, Rodney’s Funscreen, Wonder Window and Dazzeloids.
Um Jammer Lammy again proved a huge hit, especially in Japan. Why do you think Japanese audiences really took to the games and their great style?
Lammy has everything that Parappa 1 has, but is more complex and challenging to play. Gamers at the time wanted a more difficult game play. The style of both really fit the fashion of Tokyo at the time.
Who would you rather rap/jam with? PaRappa the Rapper or Um Jammer Lammy?
I have no sense of rhythm myself, so better not to rap. I might be able to sing along in the background with Milk Can.
PaRappa is making a bit of a comeback with a new remastered version of the game now available on the PS4. Do you feel there is a chance a brand new game could be on the cards?
I hope so!
Were you involved in the TV series and are you a fan of it?
No, I was not involved in the Parappa Anime, except I designed a few new characters for the new setting. The show is fun, but I always thought it could have been better, sticking to the concepts and style of the games a little more.
Your great artwork has also been heavily used in many other types of media, from books to music. Do you have a particular favourite piece of artwork you have ever created?
Right now I’m most proud of my book “Dharma Delight.” It available on Amazon.com and at many book stores. It’s a compilation of many of my recent artworks and an introduction to Buddhism and Zen.
What projects/games are you currently working on?
Right now I’m preparing to open my first retail shop. It called THE RODNEY SHOP and it opens May 20th, 2017 in Catskill NY (sorry for the lateness of the article all! – Ed). I’ll be selling artwork, prints and posters, plus my back stock of vintage 1990’s Japanese products. My hours will be Friday and Saturday 10 to 5, and Sunday 10 to 4.
We’ll see you there! One more question before you shoot off, if you could share a few drinks with a video game character who would you choose and why?
I think I’d have a beer with Mr. Prince Feaswallow and chat about the retail business.
Nice! Thanks so much for stopping by Rodney, some great stories there! Readers, please visit Rodney’s website whimsyload.com