Saturday, January 20, 2007

Oh ya, I'm working on a film, aren't I?

Just some potential designs for the film.

Trying to keep it simple!


Anonymous 7:09 PM  

Hi Alan,

As I hope you know already, I do admire your work and your desire to try different stylistic approaches. So please accept this bit of constructive criticism in the spirit it's intended.

As you have these two characters drawn here, I'm not sure they're working very well. First of all, if you showed the fairy in scale to the boy, how small would she be? Because of the extreme head/body ratio of the boy, you'd have a tough time showing her as a tiny character, as her body size would probably be about the same as his, though their heads would differ in size. I'd suggest that the boy's dimensions are too extreme and implausible to start with, especially relative to those of the fairy.

Secondly, I know you guys seem to like flat, angular design, but it has to make sense too. How would that angular wedge of the fairy's head design move if you animated her head rotating from side to side? Also, is the point of the wedge supposed to be her chin or jawline? It is rather vague to me and, frankly, a bit uncomfortable. I'm not trying to dissuade you from the angular design, by the way. But you need to work out this stuff in thumbnailed animation before you finalize the design in order to see what complications can arise. Quite honestly, I don't know how you would rotate either of these characters as they are here, but ultimately that's for you to figure out through your own exploration. Again, this criticism is meant with the best of intentions and to help you revisit these designs with a self-critical eye.


Cookedart 12:24 AM  

Hey Pete,

I wanted to give your comment a thorough response after some fairly cerebral though. Here goes!

First off, thanks much for the honest, truthful feedback - I'd just as much like to hear it if someone thinks something is wrong with or doesn't work well as someone who likes it.

I've definetly heard the feedback with the body ratio - if the boy was a character on it's own I think it might work, but especially considering the fairy's proportions, would need some reworking.

With respect to the style itself, I definetly think that this style will lend itself to a specific type of animation. While this is definetly a first pass design and definetly not something that is finalised, the group wanted to explore the space of a stylized, cartoon-network feel (mostly inspired by Foster's Home of Imaginary Friends). I've analysed how their characters rotations are handled and it looks like Rod Scribner-esque wipes since the character can't actually look directly at the camera - it looks good from 3 quarter back and 3 quarter front, and anything in between must have a set of rules in place to handle the animation (these rules are definetly to point out things that cannot be done with such a design). Since this is what the group wanted to explore, I tried to create a design as faithful to that pre-conceived style as I could with still having an original design.

But I think this brings me to a more broad and far-reaching point, which is that whether or not character design should always have in mind the final design to serve the production, or if designing with a more illustrative approach is acceptable. Some of my favorite character designers in Robin Joseph and Nicolas Marlet's designs are not exactly intended to be the final design used for production, but rather the first visualisation of a character on paper, as fresh and unique as can possibly be imagined. Then, as it seems, another artist (or perhaps the same artist) has to take a pass at the design to create a more strucutred model to be used for production. Designer Jakob Jensen points out that his job on Over the Hedge was to do just this to Nico Marlet's stuff in this post. I find it interesting that he points out that he refers to it as "Dumbing it Down." I raise this point because this is how I feel about design - I feel that you should be free to do whatever you want to evoke the character's personality, and to create a design as appealing as possible. I think these two things should be at the forefront of any designer's mindset when creating a character. When this is established, anatomy and structure can be hung off of this, but only so because it helps communicate how the drawing works to another person who will be required to reproduce the character. Essentially, I would never want to create a design with structure and anatomy foremost in my mind because of its potential to take away from expressing the character in the most direct and clear manner possible. What would happen if all the designers could only create a design that was the final production model sheet? I personally would think that unique, fresh characters would be far and few in between.

Again, I totally hear where you're coming from Pete - these designs severely limit what they can possibly do, so as long as the group and the animators are comfortable with these limitations, we can create designs such as this. I'd really like to hear what you think of my opinion though, and would like to also encourage any additional concerns and comments about my work in the future because I truly value your opinion on design. Discussions like this make everyone smarter and better designers.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Hi Alan,

First off, thanks for accepting my critique in the right spirit - it is meant as a helpful suggestion only. In reading your response, I must say that you have made an excellent case, articulating your thoughts very clearly. In fact, I see better where you are coming from now and I agree with this stance. It is healthy to explore all sorts of different approaches at the design stage and I applaud you for trying something offbeat.

You are also correct in your statement that a character design concept not have to look a lot like the final result. Most successful designs in Disney, Pixar and other fully dimensional films have certainly started out as more graphic approaches, exploring flat shapes as a way of creating an ultimately more satisfying "sihouette" in the final model, showing an appealing contrast in shape, form and even colour palette. Only at that point is a character more fully "fleshed out" and fully realized in order to handle the more subtle nuances of animated performance.

One thing I'd still like to recommend, however, is an exploration of more organic, fluid shapes in addition to the more angular approach. A design, whether it be fully dimensional or more graphic, is somehow more appealing to the eye when there is a varity of curves along with the straights. You are probably already familiar with many of the UPA films, but I would like to direct your attention to a couple that are currently accessible on YouTube: "A Unicorn in the Garden" and "Ballet Oop!". Again, it does boil down to ones personal tastes, but I happen to admire these films for their organic linework that lends itself so well to the fluid and rhythmic flow of the animated film.

In closing, I do want to tell you how much I admire your work and the fact that you giving serious thought to the design process. I'm looking forward to seeing your film's progress!


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