We began looking at our character design a lot this week. A slight downside to our story is that our characters are innately simple. With all the best intentions, you can’t really make a cylindrical peg look like anything other than a cylindrical peg. However this does give us a lot of room to experiment with style and the little details that really make an animation loveable. Each member of the team spent some time drawing up multiple variations of the character so we would have a pool of choices. These can be found on each of their blogs!
I decided to draw up two of our main characters quickly in photoshop to get a sense of their personality. I wanted to give the characters a very natural, earthy look, while also looking like something that a child would want to play with.
I really like how the characters turned out, and think that the wood grain really adds to their personality. If we were more advanced in maya, I would have loved for the wood grain to form the eyes, using knots for the darkest sports…however for now I think simple holes will do the trick. Since this drawing, we have decided to get rid of the arms on the characters, as our new storyboard doesn’t require them.
<Some character movement ideas. We think that the character of the shapes will mostly come across in the way they move and act.
Edit: Soon after these drawings, the team decided on a solid character design, which I drew up in rotations to get an idea of scale and texture. Having now finalised our animatic, we knew the characters no longer required arms, so they were taken out of the design.
A really helpful resource when looking at character design and storyboarding was the Pixar website. Early in the year I watched a great video documenting the storyboarding process of ‘Monsters Inc’ (no longer available) where the group voiced and acted out the story along to the storyboard frames. My own team definitely found ourselves acting like wooden pegs more than is probably socially acceptable.
I believe Clare also has this on her blog, but one of the sections of the website that is most useful is their ‘TIPS FOR DESIGNING A SUCCESSFUL CHARACTER’. Now, I will openly admit that I found this long after the character designs were actually created; however it is really reassuring to see that the team actually went through each and every one of these points without even thinking about it!
Research and evaluate
It can be helpful to try and deconstruct why certain characters and their characteristics work and why some don’t. Study other characters and think about what makes some successful and what in particular you like about them.
Who is it aimed at?
Think about your audience. Characters aimed at young children, for example, are typically designed around basic shapes and bright colours.
Whether you’re creating a monkey, robot or monster, you can guarantee there are going to be a hundred other similar creations out there. Your character needs to be strong and interesting in a visual sense to get people’s attention.
Exaggerating the defining features of your character will help it appear larger than life. Exaggerated features will also help viewers to identify the character’s key qualities.
Colours can help communicate a character’s personality. Typically, dark colours such as black, purples and greys depict baddies with malevolent intentions. Light colours such as white, blues, pinks and yellows express innocence, good and purity.
Interesting looks alone do not necessarily make for a good character; its personality is key as well. A character’s personality can be revealed through animations, where we see how it reacts to certain situations. The personality of your character doesn’t have to be particularly agreeable, but it does need to be interesting (unless your characters is purposely dull).
Expressions showing a character’s range of emotions and depicting its ups and downs will further flesh out your character. Depending on its personality, a figure’s emotions might be muted and wry or explosive and wildly exaggerated.
Goals and dreams
The driving force behind a character’s personality is what it wants to achieve. Too often the incompleteness or flaws in a character are what make it interesting.
Building back stories
If you’re planning for your character to exist within comics and animations then developing its back story is important. Where it comes from, how it came to exist and any life-changing events it has experienced are going to help back up the solidity of, and subsequent belief in, your character. Sometimes the telling of a character’s back story can be more interesting than the character’s present adventures.
Beyond the character
In the same way that you create a history for your character, you need to create an environment for it to help further cement believability in your creation. The world in which the character lives and interacts should in some way make sense to who the character is and what it gets up to.
Fine-tuning a figure
Question each element of your creation, especially things such as its facial features. The slightest alteration can have a great effect on how your character is perceived.