Pandaren/Samwise Interview 2009

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We're sitting down with Samwise Didier to talk about the recently released Exclusive Pandaren Brewmaster deluxe figure, and learn about the pandaren race and their place in Azeroth, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Hail brothers and sisters!

A lot of people may not know the illustrious history of the pandaren race and their introduction in the Warcraft III expansion. Can you give a brief recap of how you got the idea for an anthropomorphic panda race and how they eventually came to be included in the expansion?

I might never have had the idea if it weren't for my brother's fantastic skill at mangling up words and phrases. "A flash in the pants" or "at the end of my wit" are some of the classics in my brother's repertoire of manglings and mash-ups.

We were all off on a weekend desert trip and come evening everyone was grouped up around the fire. I was off doing something and my bro, who already had a few Stormstouts in him, said something like

  • "Dude, you're like one of those panda bears -- you're never cold."
  • I said "Do you mean a polar bear?"
  • He muttered something like "I said polar bear" or whatever, but from that moment on, I was judged and labeled as: The Panda.

Some years later I did a Christmas picture for my family of a panda bear with a cub sitting on his shoulder in tribute to the new daughter who had joined our clan. That was the first panda picture I did.
For some reason, one of our webmasters asked if it could be made into a Blizzard wallpaper. People seemed to like it well enough so that when April Fools came around we announced that the pandaren were going to be the fifth race for Warcraft III. People got excited by the announcement, and seemed to be let down when they found out it was just a joke.

In your personal work you'll literally represent yourself quite often as a Pandaren, and in other pieces you use them as easter eggs. Do you think of them as an icon or calling card for your work now?

It all started when we were working on the art books. In the Art of Warcraft book they had highlighted a picture I did that had some hidden names, faces, and such in it.

I've always done things like that, but this was the first time we blatantly pointed it out.

From then on people started looking for hidden faces or pandas in my pictures. It is pretty funny now because people are seeing things in everything. Even on art that I didn't work on people are saying, "Look! There's a panda face!"

Did you ever imagine it would become this sort of underground/cult reference throughout the Warcraft games?

Oh it was totally calculated. I have that kind of vision.

Most recently, the Exclusive Pandaren Brewmaster figure hit the Blizzard Online Store. Since it was something you were heavily involved in helping to create, can you tell us about the process and why this one is so special?

The development was pretty painless, at least on my end. A pencil drawing for the front, side, and back of Chen as well as details for his gear, and that was about all. The face needed a few more iterations to it to help out the sculptor and that was really it.

The sculpting of Chen is special to me as the Pandaren was originally just created for my family and friends. It was done just for fun, as a joke. To have this personal piece of art become a page or two in the massive volumes of Blizzard Entertainment lore is an honor. And to have it embraced by so much of our community is a really great feeling. Some still think of the Pandaren as the Aprils Fools gag, while others think they should be the next race for World of Warcraft (Horde, naturally :)).

But whatever your views, just remember this... if my brother was a better speaker then the pandaren race might never have been born. Cheers to you brother!

The Pandaren are sprinkled throughout Warcraft history, but with a non-combat pet, several TCG cards, and of course the new exclusive pandaren figure all releasing within a short time, are we getting close to something bigger?

You mean like car seat covers?

Thank you Sammy!

For Pandaria!

Source: Community site web archive