It’s hard to believe now, but before we released Plants vs. Zombies, a lot of people at PopCap didn’t think the game would be a big deal. The low expectations actually turned out to be a good thing, because it allowed us a lot of freedom in how we promoted the game.
In fact, it’s the only reason we got away with making a giant, papier-mâché zombie head.
A few months before the PvZ release, my coworker Glenn and I were dreaming up some sort of video series featuring a live-action zombie around the PopCap office. But he couldn’t just be one of the zombies from the game. He had to have a good reason for mingling with real people here at PopCap. Naturally, it made sense that he should be a Zombie Temp Worker: hired by PopCap to research the undead.
All we needed for this was a ragged old suit, a striped tie, and — here’s the hard part — a custom-made zombie mask. But we only had about $800 for our entire budget (compare that to a $50 million Call of Duty commercial!). How could we create a mask, get the costume, and shoot the videos with less money than the Disco Zombie spent on his shoes? We thought cheap, which, naturally, went to kids’ craft ideas. Papier-mâché! We knew right away, it HAD to be papier mâché. I mean, what kind of idiot wouldn’t make a papier-mâché zombie head? (Wait… huh?)
The biggest problem? We didn’t have the brainz to make the head ourselves. I did a papier-mâché mask once, and quickly discovered that you shouldn’t actually cover your face with wet, gluey paper… unless you’re a big fan of not breathing.
So we searched for a professional papier-mâché artist (yep, they exist!) that could make not only a mask, but an entire head. We were thrilled to find Rick in Vancouver, BC (click here for a gallery of his stuff). He did an awesome job, and he gave us a few pictures of the head in progress:
Most people in the office were a little unsure about our idea, until the finished head actually arrived. Suddenly everyone was like a caveman discovering fire: a little uncertain at first, but eventually, you want to put it on your head.
Within just two days of getting the head, we made our first video. And we immediately discovered the best part of having a Zombie Temp Worker: he’s not a good temp worker.
Zombies also are not good at Ping Pong.
Only Glenn and I laughed when we screened this video — we loved the Hitchcockian screeching sound effect during Zombie’s nightmarish encounter with the plants. Apparently nobody else did.
Watching all these videos makes me want to make another one. If you have any ideas for our next Zombie Temp Worker adventure, add a comment below. Oh, and there are more videos. For the three of you who really can’t get enough, go visit our PvZ YouTube Channel to see them.