Cynder's Character Development in The Legend of Spyro and Skylanders
Several years ago I reached to Jared Pullen, the lead concept artist at Krome Studios of The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and The Eternal Night about Cynder the Dragon and how she came to be:

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Jared Pullen Wrote:Cynder was one of those rare opportunities to create a female villain character that was both unique and fresh design wise, but also felt as if she had been a part of the Spyro mythology for quite some time. She certainly seems to have resonated with so many Spyro fans out there, whether that's from her Gothic design sensibilities or the fact that she has an interesting back story in terms of her origin, I'm not entirely sure.... but whatever the case she definitely is a compelling character within the realm of Spyro, and has pretty much become a mainstay within it.

Nowadays where there's Spyro, there's Cynder it seems.... and it gives no end of satisfaction to have played a part in it, however small that was Smile The real credit for Cynder's design must go to the very talented Mr Bruno Rime, who was my lead at the time and overall Art Lead on the first Legend Of Spyro
title. The story called for 'a powerful and shadowy dark Dragon' to be Spyro's nemesis for the first installment of TLOS trilogy, beyond that no specification was given and the starting point was very loose. It was Bruno who determined that this villain be female and a Black Dragon at that too... as the Dragon villains previously fought in the earlier Spyro titles were generally red coloured.

For both Bruno and myself from the get go presence was paramount, and the Black Dragon Maleficent from the old Disney flick 'Sleeping Beauty' had that in spades. It was a wonderful reference for us in terms of her lithe, sinuous form, which we adopted for Cynder's overall body structure... but pretty soon Bruno was exploring Gothic overtones in keeping with the visual cues of the environment that Cynder was first encountered in (Concurrent Skies.) The platinum jewelry was evident as a personal touch for the 'evil' version of Cynder and served to signify her as both feminine and regal, but also gave the impressions of servitude... as if the decoration about her throat was less a necklace and more a manacle, indicating her enslavement to the Dark Master's thrall. We later went on to call her a 'Midnight Dragon' owing to this Gothic nature, and all the design work was handled by Bruno. There were about 3 or 4 iterations on her design from memory, as Bruno had a strong vision for who Cynder was visually. She took him a week to create once he'd sat down to handle it, in addition to his Art Lead duties.

Where I came in was purely in an 'advisory' capacity.... and by advisory I just mean I was Bruno's 'second eye' to just run over the design and see what I thought. Naturally I loved it from the start... and with much respect for Bruno, he is one talented visual creator Smile I did however get to name her, as for most of the game Cynder was referred to as 'The Anti-Spyro' and her baboon inspired minions were known as 'Anti-Spyro Soldiers'... we knew that the game couldn't ship with those names in place. So we ran an internal competition at both Krome Studios and Vivendi Universal (for that was their name at time of publishing. Now branded Activision) and after about 3 weeks I found out that I had won Smile Its pretty humbling to have named one of video gaming's most memorable characters, so it's something that is special to me Smile

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A few years later in 2017, I talked with Paul Reiche III on a bit of Spyro and Cynder's addition in Skylanders. He talked with Michael Graham, who also worked on Spyro: Shadow Legacy and The Legend of Spyro trilogy, and this what they said:

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Michael Graham Wrote:“We had a lot of discussion around the best way to treat both Spyro and Cynder throughout the early stages of development.  First and foremost, it was important for us to establish a brand new universe that could introduce a plethora of new heroes, but we also wanted to honor the history of Spyro and Cynder.  The end of the “Legend” series left both of them in a place that was open to interpretation.  Were they in some sort of dragon heaven?  Were they in Skylands?  Were they back in their own world?  It was purposely left mysterious to allow us the freedom to reintroduce these characters in a way that was very fitting for the world of Skylands – while also leaving it to longtime fans, such as yourself, to use your own imaginations to fill in the blanks.  Spyro’s world has always been a world full of imagination – and ultimately we decided that IMAGINATION was the most important aspect to carry forward into Skylanders.  For many fans, Skylanders represents a fresh start for both Spyro and Cynder.  But there are enough nods to previous games to allow longtime fans the freedom to imagine their own connections with the past.  So the real questions are…
  • How do you think Cynder has evolved and developed?
  • Which nods to previous Spyro games do you think were intentional?
  • And do you think any of these nods have deeper meaning?”

Paul Reiche III Wrote:From my own perspective, Cynder was an opportunity to show an inverted image of Spyro – different gender, different original ‘alignment’ and very different approach to solving problems. Spyro is a natural hero upon whom fortune has smiled most of his life.  Cynder comes from a more troubled origin and has had to earn every ounce of her heroism the hard way.  This contrast not only gives greater breadth to the role of dragons in our universe, but it also makes the friendship between Spyro and Cynder more interesting. 

In terms of ‘nods’ to older lore, we faced the eternal problems re-boots always face – how do you make the characters and world sufficiently new that you aren’t just repeating what’s already been done, but also maintain enough of the heart of Spyro to be ‘legit’ (and yes, people define that quite differently, I know!)  I was once complaining to a friend about a particular version of Star Trek which felt ‘wrong’ to me (I love the original, BTW).  She advised me to imagine that yes, somewhere there was the true, singular version of Star Trek, but that we would never be able to see it.  Instead, we get to look into that distant world through a variety of different telescopes which each have different lenses and are pointing at slightly different places.  Maybe Spyro is like that too.

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Fascinating how both teams at Krome Studios and Toys For Bob saw Cynder as Spyro's opposite. It makes me wonder what direction other developers will take the character if she appears in future Spyro-related installments.
"Looks like I got some things to do!"

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