I try to add at least one exotic new animal to each chapter of “Hominids”. In Chapter 1 it was that crazy razor blade fish, Chapter 2 we met Basse’s pet panther Serilda, and my personal favorite in Chapter 3 was the WildCoat Barking Toad! In Chapter 4, I was looking to add another bizarre animal to this strange world. It was also necessary for our heroes to get to their destination fairly quickly. I looked back to my old drawings from my childhood for inspiration. I was reminded that Keyli rode an Ostrich as his means of transportation. This was perfect! Although I didn’t want it to be an ostrich exactly. I had to “evolve” it, or “devolve” it in this case.
There was a couple things I knew I wanted to be present. The fact that they’re based on a non-flying birds was important to help make them a “one way” trip. If they flew then you’d wonder why in the world don’t they fly on these things everywhere. So I just made their wings larger for gliding, but not flying. From an evolutionary stand point this made sense to me. I couldn’t see a normal ostrich surviving in a world with giant skyscraper sized trees. They’d have to adapt a way to travel from tree to tree, not unlike a flying squirrel. It’s either that or die out.
Then I wanted an older species to base the bird on so that they weren’t just ostriches with a few minor adjustments. In October, I was in New York and we went to the American Natural History Museum. There is saw a skeleton that was exactly what I was looking for. A giant bird that existed in the Paleocene era 65 to 56 million years ago. It was called the Gastornis. So I created an intermediate bird between the Gastornis and Ostrich.
Below are some of my concept drawings. Check them out and let me know what you think.
My first pass had them looking much more Ostrich like.
I like the way they look here but it’s looks a little too much like a vulture.
The final design.
Original Hominids drawing from the early 90′s. At that time each character had their own animal.
The skeleton of Gastornis at the Natural History Museum.