Welcome to the end-of-season artwork double feature. We’re moving from the Ninja Turtle inspired Bash episode artwork to robots and secret labs. While that may sound like a villain’s lair, it’s anything but. Our artwork for episode 7: Talking to Machines reflects the complicated history of AI programming. And episode 8: The C Change is all about the heroes who laid the foundation for most of the other languages we’ve covered this season. Check out how we thought to best represent these colossal stories.

Talking to Machines:

What elements are taken directly from LISP?

Karen Crowson, Designer: Parentheses. They’re all over the place in LISP. In our research, we saw a lot of jokes about the number of parentheses used in LISP, so we felt like we had to include them somehow. We used them all over the tree, and as the robots’ hands.

What was your biggest influence for this episode’s art?

Karen: The fact that LISP was one of the oldest languages (only Fortran is older by a year) and that it underwent this winter of development, where a lot of people lost interest. But that’s changing now, so we have the imagery of a thaw. LISP is also the origin of so many dialects and influenced other languages. That helped to steer the art in a direction to show LISP as this monumental tree of life—the branches representing the language offshoots. 

How did you get from an abstract language to the images used for the episode?

Karen: We relied on the influence and uses of the LISP: the tree of life concept, and the change in weather. The purple signified winter, with snow, and icicles, but as you move up the image, things start to defrost. That’s the “summer” of interest in AI becoming popular again.

Command Line Heroes S3 Animated GIF: Episode 7

What’s your favorite part of this episode’s art?

Karen: I love the tree. Visually, it was fun to create with the different branches, and worked well as robotic arms in the animation. It was fun to mix the structure of a tree with robotic visuals, so it’s not quite entirely one or the other.

What was the most difficult part to draw?

Karen: The snow. It was the hardest thing to nail down. That’s partially because the color we had to work with was purple (to follow our seasonal progression), and that made drawing the shadows difficult. It looked a lot like slime at first, but adding the icicles helped to represent everything correctly, in a way that people could immediately see that it’s a wintery scene. 

The C Change

What’s the coolest/most surprising thing you learned about C? 

Karen: I thought it was interesting that even after Bell Labs gave up on it, the team still held on to create it. It ended up being the foundation for many of the languages we have covered through the season. 

What was your biggest influence for this episode’s art?

Karen: The episode’s focus on Bell Labs, and how C has been so influential to other languages. We wanted to depict it as this secret lab that coming out from the water, while showing Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie as monuments lining the island.

Drew Carrow, Animator: For the animation, we went back to the previous episodes. With C influencing so many other languages, and this being the last episode, we made this animation a kind of a series recap, bringing in fun elements from other episodes and languages. 

Command Line Heroes S3 Animated GIF: Episode 8

What’s your favorite part of this episode’s art?

Karen: Making the monuments. We based them off of the UNIX credo : “No beard, no belly, no guru…” I wanted to bring that in with huge beards and a bit of a gut. 

Drew: Making everything rise out of the water. It was a cool idea. It was also very challenging to make, and I hope the effect comes through for the viewers.

Love the artwork for these two episodes? You can download the scenes as wallpaper on the page for Talking to Machines and for The C Change.

We’ve enjoyed showing you how we make the Command Line Heroes artwork. Season 3 was a blast to produce, and we’re hard at work raising the bar for Season 4. Now you’ll know just how it’s done.