The road to Mists of Pandaria – A man behind a face

Two days ago I started blogging again, and I chose to look at the MoP trailer and explain why I was impressed with it. While watching the video, I noticed something odd towards the end:

See the small Pandaren face on Chen’s barrel?

Why would there be a Pandaren face on something that belongs to Pandaren celebrity Chen Stormstout? It would be like, I don’t know, Worf from Next Generation having a drawing of Klingon-like features on his fanny pack (not that I see a Klingon ever wearing a fanny pack). Actually there is a very simple explanation, but as with any good story we’ll have to go back a bit and take a short memory trip.

Many of you who are fans of the Warcraft franchise will be familiar with the name of Sam “Samwise” Didier. The big guy is the art director at Blizzard Entertainment and has been since the Silicon and Synapse days (i.e. early nineties). He’s the man behind most of the concept artwork for all of the major Blizzard series – Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. He’s a huge metalhead – among his works are many covers for HammerFall‘s albums, and he’s the vocalist of Level 90 Elite Tauren Chieftain. Oh and did I mention that he runs a website called “Sons of the Storm“?

 
Dude is a total badass in my book. Or at least a Geek with a capital G, in a good way. If you want to know more about him, the folks at Blizzard and their geeky shenaningans, you can watch the documentary they released last year for the company’s 20th anniversary (where Sam proudly wears his HammerFall T-shirt).

 
Anyhow, let’s get to the relevant part. At some point between Warcraft II and Warcraft III, Samwise was the father of a little girl. For Christmas, as a small gift to his family he drew a picture of a big panda with a small cub on his shoulder. Sam drawing himself as a panda wasn’t a random whim – Panda was his nickname, as he has the looks of a big bear yet none of its ferocity (this story courtesy of WoW Insider – funny how that article was published in 2010). Somehow that picture made its way out of Sam’s home; people took notice of the art and started talking of a new “Panda” race.

Sam dismissed the thought at first. However, an April’s Fools was made portraying Pandaren as playable units in the upcoming Warcraft III. It was quickly revealed as a joke, but it draw quite a reaction. From there, Samwise started drawing little Easter eggs in his art: tiny pictures of a panda face. In the meanwhile, Metzen started working on Pandaren lore, and they were officially featured for the first time in Warcraft III.

After that… we already know the story. Pandaren and their homeland Pandaria will be the namesake of World of Warcraft’s third expansion. Will Samwise stop putting random panda faces in his artwork? I am not sure, but it certainly seems proper to do it in the closing scene of this trailer, as a small doodle from over a decade ago managed to spark the life of a whole new world.

Next on The Lazy Tree: Indecisive 25man EU guild LFM (maybe) before september 25! Stay tuned!

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