For those who celebrate, Lunar New Year is about bringing family and friends together for feasting and festivities to celebrate unity, prosperity, and a new beginning. On January 22, Lunar New Year begins, ushering in the Year of the Rabbit for most cultures that celebrate (Vietnam, which uses a different zodiac, will celebrate the Year of the Cat in 2023). While employees at Ubisoft studios and offices around the world will celebrate Lunar New Year in their own ways, this year they will all have a special Rabbid to celebrate with.
Three artists from Ubisoft Chengdu – Junior Concept Artist Wang Lan Jin, Lead Artist Zhang Xi Peng, and Senior Level Designer Zhang Man Di – created a special Lunar New Year Rabbid design for Year of the Rabbit, which will be made into figurines for select studios, life-size cardboard cutouts, stickers, and more. Ubisoft News spoke with them to learn more about the custom Rabbid design, how they are celebrating Lunar New Year, and what the holiday means to them.
Junior Concept Artist Wang Lan Jin, Lead Artist Zhang Xi Peng, and Senior Level Designer Zhang Man Di
2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, which is a perfect match for Rabbids. To celebrate, you designed a special rabbit-themed Rabbid figurine! How did you come up with the design?
Wang Lan Jin: Rabbids are very similar to rabbits, so the main focus was to combine the key features while also leaving some differences between them. Since Rabbids and rabbits both have similar ears, we put down the rabbit ears on the hat so that they don’t overlap. We also took reference from Chinese lion dancers when designing the hat. The rest of the design is inspired by our childhood memories, such as wearing a red cotton jacket and eating sugar-coated haw [the food item in the Rabbid’s hand, made from hawthorn fruit and sugar]. We wanted to add this nostalgic feeling to the Rabbids figurine. We also added Rabbid-shaped sugar coating on the treat as well!
You can also see that the Rabbid is wearing a white bag in the shape of a rabbit lantern. People regard the rabbit as an auspicious thing, and wherever the rabbit lantern goes, it means that auspiciousness and harmony are there. People continue to use this mascot to welcome the gods and receive blessings, which embodies the good wishes of the ancient working people to pray for the blessings of the gods, and to look forward to a bumper harvest of grains and prosperity of humans and animals in the coming year. In the end, I chose the most representative red color for the Chinese New Year. The color also builds connection with last year’s Rabbids Zodiac figurine, Tiger Rabbids.
How did you decide on how many rabbit-themed details to include?
Zhang Xi Peng: Growing up, we have seen and used many kinds of traditional Chinese New Year items, such as winter hats to keep warm, jackets for children to welcome the New Year, paper cutouts for the New Year, rabbit lanterns in children's hands, and even steamed buns in pots, all with rabbit profiles.
We wanted to show that this is a rabbit who is curious about and loves Chinese culture, and that it is dressed up from head to toe with elements of the Chinese Year of the Rabbit. The Rabbid is wearing a small bag inspired by rabbit lanterns, the sugar-coated haw in his hand also has rabbit ears.
Have there been special Lunar New Year Rabbids designed in previous years for different zodiac signs? Is this a tradition that will continue?
Zhang Xi Peng: This is the third year – we started with Lunar Year of the Ox two years ago, then it was Tiger Rabbids for last year. Now we produced Rabbit Rabbids for the Year of Rabbit.
It is our intention to design the whole set of the Zodiac, 12 of them total. I would be really happy to continue to support on this initiative.
From left to right: Tiger Rabbid, Ox Rabbid, Rabbit Rabbid
How is your studio celebrating Lunar New Year?
Wang Lan Jin: My studio usually has an annual party to celebrate, with a show, a raffle, and a nice gift for everyone. Last year, I won for a copy of Far Cry 5.
Zhang Xi Peng: Usually, Chengdu makes special Chinese New Year-themed decorations for the studio before the holiday arrives, such as themed ornaments in the public spaces, and Chinese lanterns and Chinese knots hanging from the ceiling. There will also be an annual event, and everyone will receive a Chinese New Year gift bag.
Zhang Man Di: Every Chinese New Year, our studio holds an annual meeting, and the theme of every annual meeting is different. When there was no COVID-19, we had an in-person party. Since the pandemic started, the annual meeting turned into an online live broadcast. At the in-person annual meeting, I almost won a prize every year. But I’m not as lucky after events are moved online. I definitely hope to have an in-person celebration soon!
What are your favorite Lunar New Year traditions?
Wang Lan Jin: Every year when we go back home, we eat dumplings wrapped with sugar and money hidden inside; eating the money dumplings means we will be lucky this year, and eating sugar means we are lucky. I will observe the dumplings carefully before eating them and try to find the dumplings with money and sugar inside, and I will be very happy when I eat them.
Zhang Xi Peng: For me, my favorite tradition of the Chinese New Year is the night of the family reunion, when all the family members from all around the world come home to make a big meal together, make dumplings together, and put up spring scrolls together.
When I was a child, fireworks were popular, and the sounds of fireworks were everywhere; it is the New Year sound to me. Now, we are very concerned about environmental issues, so we do not burn fireworks anymore. But we can also hang firecracker pendants as decorations in the house.
Zhang Man Di: The cycle of the 12 zodiac animals. The zodiac is a cultural folklore with a long history in China. You can find the designs of zodiacs in many poems, paintings, calligraphy and crafts. Nowadays, more and more people take the zodiac as the mascot of the Chinese New Year festival, the symbol of entertainment and cultural activities. I find this really interesting in terms of showing our Chinese culture.
What does Lunar New Year mean to you personally?
Wang Lan Jin: It means eating good food and sleeping until you wake up naturally - to do something that you usually don't have time to do.
Zhang Xi Peng: For me, this Lunar New Year holiday is a time when I can chill and lay back, relaxing with my family. It is also a time for me to look back on my life and work experiences, to make mental notes of the good things I have experienced in the past year, and to start preparing for the various plans for the new year.
Zhang Man Di: For Chinese people, the most important concepts of the New Year are "reunion" and "home." No matter where people are, they always go back home during the New Year, and the family will sit together for a reunion dinner. This is also an important event of the year for me. During a reunion dinner, the elders in the family give lucky money to the kids – that is a Chinese cultural tradition. When I was a kid, that was my favorite part, but now that I am an adult, I have become the one to give red packets to continue the tradition in my family.
To learn more about the people of Ubisoft, check out our Inside Ubisoft hub.