This short technical document will explain and display the process that was taken to create the main Suitcase character in 'The Suitor'. The character, being the main focus on of the animation, was challenging to create and to bring to life.

Being a suitcase, which do not usually move or animate, it was quite difficult to decide on how to give the object character or how he would act. Influences were taken from the

superb character throughout Disney cartoons and animations and the idea of the 'Flour sack' was carried into my own character.

Below shows the type of movement a sack of flour, a usually inanimated object, can do.

The character would have certain limitations, but would also be able to convey enough emotion to drive a story and enough flexibility to drive the action.

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The main focus of 'The Suitor' was it's story. The character needed to be able to convey this story through a range of different actions, each one more exaggerated than the last. The storyboarding stage in pre-production allowed the action to be roughed out, which resulted in a 'feature checklist' being created, detailing exactly what the character

needed to be able to do. There was also a balance between time and functionality. The rig for the character could have been improved and extended, however this would have

taken it's toll on the project timeframe and there may have been less time to animate.

Below shows a few of the rough sketches from the storyboarding stage, which already showed some of the movements that the character would be expected to take.


The creation of the suitcase in Maya was a simple enough task, the main quality of the character was it's simplicity. Below shows the suitcase textured and modelled, ready to be rigged, alongside it's texture maps.


The biggest challenge of this character was the rigging. There were different options available to allow the character to move and be functional. I began with creating a joint system in the character, and attempting to skin it, however before seeing this through, I read another way of animating usually inanimated objects (Such as cubes, spheres etc.) by keying deformers. This is the method I used.

I created a selection of deformers on the character's mesh. These consisted of two bend deformers (One for the head/neck and one for the back) a twist deformer for his waist, so he could walk with each lower corner. He also had a squash deformer for the squash and stretch features. To allow the characer's breathing to be animated, I created a blend-shape of a 'fat' version of the suitcase, as shown below, he could then be blended between them to simulate him taking and exhaling breath.

On the following pages, there are annotated images of the deformers in action.


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The Deformers displayed on the model. These were

~ hidden on a separate layer to avouid complication


The deformers were connected to two nurb squares which acted as controls (As seen on the model) New

attri butes were created

for each of the movements and minimum / maximum values were used to limit animating errors

The mesh, controls, deformer history and extra details (Such as the buckles) were

all grouped in a simple tidy way,

and the rig was ready for animation

The nurb control in

the middle of the character controls it's shape, while the bottom controls

it's position.


The combination of the mesh, textures and deformer-based rig allowed the suitcase to move in a selection of different ways and become different shapes. The resulting character was as simple to animate as I had hoped, with the two controls working well together and allowing pose-to-pose animation to be keyed.

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