For People Crazy About 2D Animation!

Acme Punched! is for people crazy about 2D animation. It may be enjoyed by beginners and others, but it is aimed at animators who know already something about the process of animation and the basics of character animation. In large part, it will attempt to provide a deep look into the problem solving that goes on in my head as I work out a scene, often in step-by-step posts that I will sometimes enter in "real time", without knowing in advance what the outcome will be. Mistakes and false starts will not only be included but emphasized, so that the creative process of animation will be portrayed realistically. And, while my own bias is for 2D drawn animation, many of the effects and principles discussed here can apply to CGI 3D animation as well. I hope the blog will prove useful and instructive for all.

-Jim Bradrick

Thursday, May 22, 2014

No. 65, My Process of Character Design, Part Two

Centerline Style into Modern Graphic Style

As discussed last time [No. 64, My Process of Character Design, Part One], after some preliminary sketching of characters I decided to go with a much more graphic style than my usual, somewhat Disney-like style.  I had already done one round of rough designs of characters that might be seen at an airport boarding gate, waiting in various ways for their flights, so I set about to modify them all into the more graphic style.

One issue to be considered is that of how this style may affect the animation.  Are there things I can do in centerline style that I can't do in using the more flattened, graphic style I have now adopted?

The answer is, yes; certainly.  For example, the kind of slow rotation of shapes one might do in centerline would not be convincing in the graphic style because the latter is not based in solid geometry.  Is this a particular problem?  Probably not, because while the graphic style might have limitations in that way, it also opens up opportunities of its own.  The graphic style is not expected to be convincing in the same way that centerline is, and it therefore can be manipulated and animated in surprising ways that can be valid and delightful in their own right.  

The Grand Vizier Zig Zag with King Nod.

For a good example of this contrast, look at any of the scenes from The Thief and the Cobbler where the highly graphic Zig Zag engages with the king or his daughter, who are both more traditional centerline designs. Richard Williams contrived to make them work well together.  

The Thief tangled up with Tack the Cobbler.

The cobbler, Tack, and the Thief were both clever hybrids of the two kinds of design.  (It should be remembered that Williams was a brilliant and accomplished designer before he ever took up animation.)

Now let's take a look at my own characters and how they have gone modern.

Woman solving sudoku.
These are all airline passengers waiting for their flights.  Most are incidental characters, so there won't be a lot of movement.  Above, I am showing you three versions  of this evolution.  Some of the others also had more than two versions before I got them the way I wanted them, but I will illustrate only two on most.

Man waiting unhappily.
Here is a symmetrical pose that remained the same; only the style and his expression have changed.  Sometimes twinning--having the right half mirror the left half in its pose--is okay!

Man using laptop computer.
Here I had another "twinned" character going and decided to change that.

Man sleeping in his seat.
This sleeping guy was a lot of fun to stylize, yet the pose remains essentially the same.

Young woman on her mobile phone.
Fun with curves and straight lines.  My approach has always been to do two or more drafts of  a character design.  It is exciting to see where this can take me.  When working toward a cartoon modern style, look for curves that can be combined and details that can be eliminated without losing the body language and information of the pose.

Older couple waiting patiently together.
Note how these two senior people have changed only in a few simple ways.

Boy playing video game.
Here's one that changed a lot between centerline style and modern style.  And changed for the better, I think.

And now, what about my two main characters?  Don't they have to be changed too?  You bet they do.  Here is how that looks:
The two main characters for the film.

Coming soon:   Storyboards for this project!

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