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Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.

com

CHARACTER DESIGN ANIMATION characters come in many different styles. Some animators have a style all their own, such as Bill Plympton, and some animators work within a particular kind of visual tradition, such as Hayao Miyazaki in Japanese anime. When designing characters, animators are often inspired by other peoples designs, but outright ripping off of other peoples designs is what lawyers call copyright infringement and intellectual property theft Fortunately, we dont need to steal designs; we can create endless original designs simply by recombining the features and proportions from details that interest us in our favourite designs, trying out new combinations. The key question to ask (and its the same in pretty much any creative endeavour) is What would it be like if I combined this... with this?

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

Here is a grid of some different styles of drawn animation characters. Note that they are all constructed of simple lines and shapes, but they use different icons for features, are different in proportion, and have different line thicknesses.

One of the more interesting attempts to classify cartoon styles was attempted by Scott McCloud in his book Understanding Comics (see next page)

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

McClouds theory is that all cartoon/animation character design fits into a triangle with three corners Realism Meaning The Picture Plane Realism is drawing to imitate the real world. The closer the design gets to this corner, the more it looks like reality. The extreme of this corner is a photograph. Meaning is drawing to capture only the idea of the character, without any extra detail. The closer the design gets to this corner, the more it looks like a stylised smiley face. The extreme of this corner finally loses all resemblance to reality and becomes a word. The Picture Plane is drawing to make lines that are there just because they look interesting. The closer the design gets to this corner, the more it includes lines that neither appear in reality, nor mean anything. The extreme of this corner is an abstract design. Most designers have an instinctive sense of where they want to be in this triangle, but its worth remembering that you can try out designing in a different part of the triangle sometimes. Two more interesting theories on character design for animation - The theory that a good character is always recognisable in silhouette - Matt Groening subscribes to this theory. The hairstyles of the Simpsons make each one instantly recognisable. The Futurama characters also have distinctive silhouettes - The theory that a good character can be imitated by a human in pantomime Chuck Jones points out that Hanna-Barbera characters, (such as The Flintstones or The Jetsons) can not be pantomimed by a human the characters do not have distinctive poses or ways of moving. This theory is about constructing your character with a particular stance. EXERCISE 3 Design a sketch of someone elses character concept, considering how to creatively use drawing style, choice of icons for features, and stance and body language, and even perhaps a few props, to capture the essential personality of the character.

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

CONSTRUCTION After settling on a particular character design sketch or doodle, it should then be analysed for its potential construction. Construction means constructing the basic shape of the character out of simple geometrical solids. The idea behind construction is to prevent the character from distorting too much in the animation process, when the character must be drawn many many times, from many angles, and often by many different artists. If the character is based on some simple geometrical solids, it is easier for the animator to rotate the character in his or her mind when drawing the character. One of the earliest and best books on animation is by the animator Preston Blair, now reprinted as Cartoon Animation in this book he explains construction;

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

From Preston Blair again, using a single line of action to capture a constructed characters distinctive stance

Preston Blair on the process of constructing a cartoon character: (next page)

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

MODEL SHEET The final step in designing a character for animation is the model sheet. This is a sheet which shows the character from every side. The minimum is usually as below front, back, side, three-quarter angle, under, and above. The idea of the model sheet is again to prevent the character from distorting too much when drawn from different angles, especially if the character must be drawn by many different animators.

Concept and Character Development For Animation Lecturer: Simon Norton Email: simon.norton@rmit.edu.au Website: www.myballoonhead.com

On productions with many animators, there will often be many model sheets, showing the animators how to draw the characters different expressions

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