Cuphead animators reveal the inspiration behind their game’s art style

Laurent Giret


Cuphead, from StudioMDHR, is an upcoming Xbox One and Windows indie game that probably looks like none of the games you ever played before. When it was first unveiled during E3 2014 among other ID@Xbox titles, the game generated a lot of excitement as it features a unique art style inspired by 1930s cartoons including hand-drawn visuals as well original jazz recordings.

While StudioMDHR has yet to share a release date for the run-and-gun platformer (it’s expected to hit Xbox One and Windows PC later this year), animator Joseph Coleman recently explained to Xbox Wire how the developers and animators wanted to translate the beautiful imperfections of early 1930’s cartoons into the retro-looking game.

I’ve watched a lot of Fleischer cartoons – a whole lot. You get to know particular designs and the reasons why they designed the characters the way they did. Personally, I had to kind of break away from professional-style animation, because we want the game to be ‘imperfect’ in certain ways. With the cartoons back then, they were still learning how to animate, so we’re leaving imperfections in here and there just to make it feel more authentic.

If you have yet to see Cuphead’s gorgeous art style, we’ve embedded (above) the latest official trailer for the game as well as a video of the animation process that was previously featured in a previous interview of Cuphead lead artist Chad Moldenhauer by Time Magazine. In this interview, Moldenhauer revealed that the team purposely run all of the game’s animations at 24 frames per second to achieve that retro-looking style:

We’re also of the belief that 24 frames per second adds to the surrealism and the fantasy of movies. It feels more cinematic to watch 24 frames per second, like the picture’s removed from the world. As you approach the higher frame rates and it looks closer to real life, in our minds it takes away that magic. It starts to look like you and your friends got together and made a movie in your backyard with your home video camera.

We’re definitely looking forward to get our hands on Cuphead later this year, and the indie game is a great to showcase the purpose of the ID@Xbox program which allows indie games developers to publish their games to the Xbox Store. In the same Time interview, Moldenhauer adds that “without Microsoft’s help and support, it would be hard to get to where we’re at today” as StudioMDHR thinks that the game “would have never reached the audience without the tons of marketing push that Microsoft’s been doing.” We encourage you to read the full interview, please let us know in the comments if you’re excited by this indie game.